By Andy Sambidge
Top officials voice worries to Saudi Labour Ministry about two million Indians working in Gulf kingdom
Indian officials have raised concerns about the impact of Saudi Arabia's jobs policy on its expat workers in the Gulf kingdom.
According to local media, a delegation led by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi met Saudi Arabia's Labour Minister Adel Fakieh to convey India's worries about the Nitaqat programme.
Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia but the Saudi government is implementing the labour law in a bid to cut unemployment among Saudi nationals.
Previously, India had said that new Saudi labour policy would affect only illegal immigrants in the kingdom, India's Economic Times reported.
The world's top oil exporter has more than nine million expatriates whose remittances home provide important revenue for countries including Yemen, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months as part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs.
Last month, it was reported that at least 2m expatriates in Saudi Arabia could soon lose their jobs, with about 250,000 companies yet to meet Saudisation quotas.
The Nitaqat system, introduced in 2011, involves a system of rewards and punishments for the country’s 800,000 registered private companies, depending on how well they meet quotas for the number of Saudis on their payroll.
Companies fulfilling their quotas are listed in the green zone, receiving privileges such as expedited visas for foreign workers and the right to hire expatriates working for other companies without first getting approval.
Firms that fall short of their quotas but are considered to be making efforts to reach them are in the yellow zone and face some restrictions on access to foreign labour.
Those that have not made any effort to employ Saudis are placed in the red zone. As well as a ban on renewing work permits for existing foreign workers those companies also will be denied services and licences by the ministry.
Workers whose visas are not renewed would be deported under the new law.
While I sympathize with those trying to provide a good life for their families, I am failing to justify their reaction. To my knowledge Saudi Arabia is under no obligation to provide jobs to anyone other than their own citizens, there are no expats who are exempted from this initiative.
It is always understood that the expat workers in the gulf are here as guest workers on job-need basis and they have to return to their home country when they are no longer required. This applies to all the "labour export" countries. These expat workers are not migrants. Therefore, I am surprised that Indian officials, at ministerial level, have raised concerns about the impact of Saudi Arabia's jobs policy. Sooner or later the expats have to make way for the nationals (if and when they are ready to do every type of work).
Therefore, India and other countries i.e. Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Sri Lanka, Philippines should have their own plans to take back such returnees and provide them with jobs. Of course, it is easy said then done! But these countries have to accept the realities.
I am 100% agreed to Bill that that the countury should provide job at their home land with dignity and the south asian leader ship to be realised the ground realities.
@Bill and @ Worldnomad
The issue here is are these expat workers being penalised for something that is not in their control? Are they receiving fair termination compensation benefits ? or are they paying out of their own pockets or indemnity to be deported home?
Some workers have fixed term contracts, and have paid large amounts to fly to saudi and earn money for their families back home. If someone is on a 3 year contract would it be fair to terminate his employment just because his company has not hired enough Saudis to meet a quoata?
Even if India has prepared for the eventual return of its overseas workers, no one can anticipate or adequately prepare for the sudden influx of millions of people comming home at once.
I as a Saudi National believe that we require Asian Labor force in order for the development of our country. Without these people, we wouldn't have people cleaning roads, constructing buildings and so on. However, the problem is with the people that come over on a "free visa" purpose. They work on a free lance basis where they are given the freedom by there sponsors to work where ever they like. This issue can cause a major impact for the country and its security as a lot of these people turn to crime if they don't find work. Illegal taxi service, stealing and even drug dealing occurs if these people have no work. For the country and its security, I believe its a step in the right direction for us as Saudi's. We now have the chance to fix the 2 Million unemployed situation, Plus instead of hiring foreigners who send money home every month, "Saudization" will pump more money into our economy. I feel for those who are deported, but at the end of the day our people should be first.
One simple question: Why did the immigration authorities allow the Saudi sponsors to operate for so long, this 'Free Visa' system if it was illegal in the first place? What is the punishment, if any, for those who are REALLY responsible for this illegal visa trade? If there were strict checks & controls on issuing visas in the first place this mess would not have happened. That is probably what the Indian officials wanted to clarify. It is obvious that a foreign country should not interfere in the legal running of the internal affairs of another. But to penalize poor expats for taking advantage of a system that was sanctioned or not enforced by the authorities, while the real culpril go scot free, is harsh.
Saudi Arabia is free to do what it chooses with regards to its labour laws. If an expat has a valid legal issue with the KSA government, I am sure the Indian government or any other government for that matter, can provide legal aid and help the case go through the legal system of the nation. If the KSA government has a legitimate legal obligation towards affected expats, I am sure sure expats will be compensated. Expats who skirted the law normally lose and I see nothing wrong with that. Sure it is not Utopia, but where is?
Actuall Sam you are Wrong.
Saudi is free to do as it chooses but within the confines of international labor agreements.
Saudi Arabia is a member of the International Labor Organisation (a UN body) and is obliged to adhere to the conventions of the ILO, which it has ratified and signed. There are a few areas that KSA needs to clarify to the international community such as are the deportation costs taken out of the expats end of service indemnity? are they receiving indemnity in the first place? have they received any outstanding salaries? are they given enough notice? are they allowed to appeal a deportation order if they were unfairly caught in the net ? for those who have a valid work visa, are they imprisoned or detained before deportation ? etc.
@keenobserver, ILO has no enforcement powers; it is an advisory body; check it out. Why is the U.N. silent on the issue so far? Think about it. If you have so much faith in ILO (a UN body), then their silence speaks volumes.