The new labor policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) that would prioritize the hiring of Saudi nationals is a hot issue nowadays as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia and their families are worried about the possibility of losing their jobs. There are about 1.2 million Filipinos working and living in Saudi Arabia.

The new Saudization law or Nitaqat system will require Saudi companies to allot a number of their job positions to Saudi citizens. Saudi workers will be categorized to determine the number of Saudi workers they need to hire. The categorization of companies is expected to be completed next month.

However, the chief of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Carlos Cao Jr. said during a press conference that the Saudization will not be fully implemented yet. He said, “Saudization" — a nationalization-related labor policy that directs companies to prioritize Saudi nationals in employment — will not be implemented “drastically" and “on a full scale."

Cao added, “If they move on a full-scale implementation, how can they send home the big number of migrant workers there?"

The POEA described the Saudization policy as a “a complex and complicated policy," which will be implemented in a “gradual and calibrated" manner.

Advise to OFWs in Saudi Arabia
Meanwhile, the head of Filipino Migrant Workers Group, Francisco Aguilar Jr. said that OFWs in Saudi Arabia should check the category of their company so they can prepare if ever they need to return to the Philippines.

Aguilar who used to be a contract worker in Saudi Arabia said, “We advise them to determine if their company is in the yellow and red categories. If so, they can scout for other companies, which are in the green and platinum [blue] categories."

He added, “It will bring no harm to them for it is clear in the Nitaqat system that those in the green and blue [categories] can get workers from the yellow and red category, even without the [no objection certificate]."

Other Options for OFWs to Be Affected by Saudization
The Philippine government is prepared to give assistance to OFWs in Saudi Arabioa that may be displaced. According to Nicon Fameronag, Department of Labor and Employment communications director, the government is ready to provide reintegration assistance to returning OFWs.

The POEA chief on the other hand, suggested alternative destinations for OFWs such as Guam, Australia, and Canada.

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