Gov’t should act now on ‘Nitaqat’s’ impact
Instead of downplaying Saudi Arabia’s “Nitaqat,” the Philippine government should create an interagency task force to monitor, study and come up with policy proposals to mitigate its impact and provide safety nets for overseas Filipino workers who will be displaced by it. Nitaqat or “Saudization,” a policy that essentially prioritizes Saudi citizens over migrants for employment in Saudi Arabia, has entered a new phase, and the Aquino administration should take note that at this point, it is being implemented in the context of the rising rate of unemployment among Saudis and as a preemptive measure to counter the “Arab Spring” spreading in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Saudi government has realized the need to institute reforms in the economic and political fronts and, by all indications and from its policy pronouncements, we have no reason to doubt its political resolve to implement Nitaqat. Already, the Saudi labor ministry has announced that 1.5 million jobless Saudis have applied for jobs. It’s like indirectly telling the governments of the countries of its migrant workers “to wake up and start creating jobs with decent pay in your country.”
The 1.5 million Saudi job-seekers can’t be absorbed by the government agencies; many of them will be given jobs in private companies. Like me, many OFWs are not prepared to lose their jobs. In the long-run, Nitaqat will affect not only OFW families; it will impact on the Philippine economy, which relies heavily on OFWs remittances.
Migrante-ME is gathering data on the number of OFWs most likely to be affected by the Nitaqat. This may be a tedious exercise, but if this is the only way to get an initial assessment of Nitaqat’s impact, we will do this. Even now, Migrante-ME “Sagip Migrante” hotlines are being “flooded” with calls from Saudi-based OFWs asking how they would know if the company they’re working with is covered by Nitaqat. About this, the OFWs may ask their company’s administration or human resource manager; unfortunately, many of them aren’t telling their workers the real score.
Saudi Arabia has been the No. 1 OFW destination since 2001. At present, it hosts some 1.2 million OFWs, including the undocumented. Last year, they sent a total of about $1.6 billion to the Philippines.
—JOHN LEONARD MONTERONA,
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