x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tens of thousands of Filipinos may lose their jobs in Saudi Arabia

Two in five Filipinos working in the kingdom are at risk because of Riyadh's plans to make firms hire more Saudis and a push by Asian countries for better conditions for their citizens working as domestic help.

MANILA // The Philippines will seek work for tens of thousands of Filipinos who may lose their jobs in Saudi Arabia as both countries implement policies to protect their citizens.

The new policies were expected to significantly reduce the amount of money overseas Filipino workers send home, which will hurt the nation's economy.

A workers' group has said that about 40 per cent of the 1.2 million Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia will be at risk. Riyadh's plans to make firms hire more Saudis and a push by Asian countries for better conditions for their citizens working as domestic help were the factors driving the change.

"We have alternative markets and we're confident that those workers that will be displaced in Saudi Arabia will be absorbed in other areas," deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte told reporters.

She could not say where or how those workers would be redeployed. Saudi Arabia has been the biggest employer of Filipinos in the Middle East, but the turmoil in the region this year means such numbers may not be absorbed by other countries.

Last year, remittances from Saudi Arabia grew 5 per cent to US$1.54 billion (Dh5.7bn), 8 per cent of total remittances of U$18.76bn.

The total amount of money sent home by overseas foreign workers grew 8.2 per cent in 2010.

The central bank had expected similar growth this year, but it cut the forecast to 7 per cent after protests erupted across much of the Arab world and Japan had been hit by an earthquake and tsunami in March.

A cut in the number of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia could see that forecast lowered again, which could weaken economic growth.

In May, the Saudi government announced a plan to strictly impose a "Saudisation" labour policy requiring at least 10 per cent of the workforce of all companies to be Saudi citizens, with companies having until September to comply.

Last month, the labour minister said the kingdom would not renew work permits of unskilled foreign workers, particularly in the construction sector and would replace them with unemployed locals.

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

Migrante, an overseas workers' group, asked Manila on Monday to focus on domestic job generation due to the shrinking labour markets and global economic slowdown.

John Monterona, Migrante's Middle East coordinator, has also demanded more protection for overseas workers by stopping illegal recruitment and trafficking and larger funds to repatriate troubled Filipino overseas workers.