KSA home to 10m expat workers
While the number of expatriate workers continues to surge in the GCC states, their contribution to the economic progress and development in these countries is both acknowledged and recognized.
Addressing a conference of the International Labor Organization in Geneva on Wednesday, Deputy Labor Minister Mufrej bin Saad Al-Haqabani said: “The number of expatriate workers in the Kingdom has reached more than 10 million including three million dependents, while annual foreign remittances of expats have climbed to SR148 billion ($39 billion).”
However, he also highlighted the expats’ contribution to the Kingdom’s remarkable progress. “They have been participating in developmental, construction, service and productive projects. They also contribute to the economic growth of their countries through remittances,” he explained.
Speaking on induction of the national Saudi workforce in the labor market, he emphasized the government’s success in employing more citizens in the private sector. “The participation of the national cadre in the sector rose from 10 to 15 percent following the introduction of the Nitaqat system in 2011.”
He said about 750,000 Saudis including 400,000 women had been given jobs in the private sector by April 2014.
Speaking with Arab News, Ibrahim Badawood, managing director of ALJ Community Initiatives, said the remarkable increase in the number of expats clearly shows that the Nitaqat (Saudization) campaign was not aimed at reducing the number of foreigners in the country.
“This is actually a good sign. When a private company employs more Saudis, it is allowed to recruit more expats to meet their needs for skilled labor,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia would require more foreign workers to carry out massive development projects across the Kingdom.
“I think the present system is good for everybody as it will create more jobs for Saudis. Companies will be allowed to recruit more expats and the Kingdom will be able to achieve greater progress,” Badawood said.
Speaking about the government’s efforts to protect the rights of workers, Al-Haqabani said: “We have spent $25 million to develop committees for the settlement of labor conflicts. These committees are manned by qualified people and they follow the best practices applied globally.”
He said the ministry has introduced a new program to educate foreign workers, especially house servants about their rights and duties as well as the Kingdom’s rules and regulations. He referred to the issuance of a new law that regulates the relationship between employers and their servants.
In a related development, the GCC countries said they have the sovereign right to enact laws to regulate the entry and stay of expat workers. “The issuance of laws and policies for this purpose is the sovereign right of our countries,” said Hind Barrak Al-Subaih, spokeswomen of the six-member GCC.
Speaking at the Geneva conference, she also emphasized the GCC states’ commitment to protect the rights of foreign workers.