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Wed 20 Jul 2011 09:01 AM

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Philippines warns workers in Saudi may lose jobs

Tough new visa curbs threaten jobs of some of Philippines 1.3 million workers in Saudi

Philippines warns workers in Saudi may lose jobs
Philippines Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos gestures during a press briefing in Manila
Philippines warns workers in Saudi may lose jobs
Filipino workers queue for applications at a job fair hiring for overseas roles

The Philippines expects “some” of its 1.3 million workers in
Saudi Arabia to lose their jobs because of the Middle East state’s new labour
policy, Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos told
reporters in Manila Wednesday.

“We are looking for alternate jobs for them either here or
abroad,” Conejos said.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled a host of labour regulations aimed at cutting unemployment levels among nationals and bolstering the number of Saudis employed in the private sector.

Companies in the world’s top oil exporter
have until November 26 to achieve a set quota of Saudi employees, or face tough
penalties including a ban on renewing visas for foreign workers.

Firms will be graded as red, yellow and green. Expat
employees of ‘red’ companies will not have their visas renewed at all, while
‘green’ companies will net a host of benefits, including fast-track visas for
foreign workers.  

The new policy will require companies to keep Saudi
nationals in at least 30 percent of their workforce. Expats within red firms
whose visas are not renewed will need to secure a post within a green company
in order to stay in the kingdom.

The Philippine central bank is studying the impact of Saudi
Arabia’s new labour policy on remittances, Assistant Governor Cyd Amador said
on July 7. About $1.5bn of remittances came from Saudi Arabia in 2010, she
said.

On July 1, the Saudi government stopped the hiring domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia after local employers protested against conditions sought by the Asian countries, including a minimum wage of $400 a month for foreign workers.

Unemployment among nationals in Saudi Arabia, which sits on
more than a fifth of global oil reserves, stands at around 10.5 percent, the
minister of labour said in May.

Joblessness in the Gulf Arab state has risen as an outdated
school system focused on religion and the Arabic language produces graduates
who have difficulty finding jobs with private firms.

Companies favour workers from Asia, prepared to work long
hours for low salaries, or well-paid foreign experts.

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