MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) sees a sharp decline in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Saudi Arabia starting this year.
“Hiring of Filipino workers (in the kingdom) may possibly drop by 20 to 30 percent this year because of the Saudization program,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said in an interview yesterday.
Bello noted that the Saudization program, which prioritizes local workers, is starting to impact on the deployment of OFWs.
During his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Bello said, he could hardly find OFWs at malls and terminals, which used to teem with Filipino salesclerks and other workers.
But Bello stressed that the DOLE does not expect mass displacement of OFWs because Saudi nationals still prefer to hire Filipinos
“It’s not displacement, it’s more on non-deployment. Those who are already (employed) won’t be affected because (Saudis) really prefer Filipinos over other nationalities,” Bello pointed out.
The DOLE chief also reported that the government is working on the repatriation of all 1,473 displaced OFWs from Azmeel Contracting Corp. by December.
Bello said Saudi’s Ministry of Labor vowed that the OFWs will receive their unpaid salaries and the employer will shoulder the cost of their repatriation.
“All of them want to be repatriated, so we will bring them home (in groups because) it’s difficult to send home 1,473 (all at once). But we committed to bring all of them home before Christmas,” Bello said.
Bello said the DOLE received information that Azmeel has been mismanaged, displacing the OFWs.
“Many workers there are still receiving good pay,” he said.
DOLE is also expecting the drop in deployment among construction workers due to the Philippine government’s on-going Build Build Build program.
“The deployment of construction workers will naturally slow down (as) we will be needing huge number of workers for the massive implementation of the infrastructure project. If there is job opportunity here I don’t think our workers will still leave even if the salary is not that high,” Bello said.
But for workers who still want to work abroad but cannot find jobs in Saudi, Bello said there are alternative markets for them.
DOLE is eyeing Germany and Israel among possible alternative markets to replace Saudi, Bello added