As Saudi nationalizes retail jobs, NGO warns of job loss for OFWs
MANILA, Philippines – A non-government organization which helps distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) warned on Thursday, February 8 of a “new wave of retrenchment” in Saudi Arabia, once the kingdom implements a new policy on the hiring of expatriates in retail shops.
According to a press release by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, many OFWs will be affected by a decree issued by the Saudi Minister of Labor and Social Development declaring 12 types of retail jobs to be off-limits for non-Saudis, starting September 11, 2018.
The following retail job categories have been classified as Saudi-only:
- Medical equipment and devices
- Electrical and electronic appliances
- Auto parts
- Building materials
- Cars and motorcycles
- Home and office furniture
- Children’s clothing and men’s accessories
- Home kitchenware
The new policy comes as Saudi Arabia embarks on an ambitious Vision 2030 plan, which includes a ‘Saudization’ scheme aiming to nationalize the kingdom’s workforce.
Reintegration of affected OFWs
The Ople Center urged the Philippine government to prepare for the eventual reintegration of thousands of OFWs who may be affected by the new policy.
“We need a national strategy of our own, to help our OFWs from Saudi Arabia who will have to return to the country and start all over again through no fault of their own,” Susan Ople, former labor undersecretary and head of the Ople Center said.
Ople also noted that some of those who will be affected by the Saudi ministry’s order have been away from the country for several years.
“Many of these workers face termination of contracts without any safety nets. They have worked in the same retail outlets for many years, and would now have to come back and compete with fresh graduates and millions of unemployed and underemployed workers,” Ople said.
The Ople Center suggests that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) “formalize a re-entry plan for returning OFWs that would include apprenticeship and skills re-tooling programs."
"“The solution lies in a more creative synergy in matching the qualifications of our returning OFWs to available jobs in the private sector. Let’s not wait till September to start this dialogue on how to improve the government’s reintegration program for our OFWs,” Ople added.
The Ople Center also said that other than Saudi Arabia, Oman also issued a si6-month ban on the issuance of work visas to expatriates in ten sectors, in a bid to “Omanise” the labor market and encourage private companies to hire from within the country. – Rappler.com