Riyadh: As the process of Saudization programme called Nitaqat came into force on March 27, tens of thousands of Malayali workers in Saudi Arabia are on the edge of uncertainty.
Nitaqat, announced in June 2011, is a plan adopted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to push its nationals into employment in companies that are colour coded to deter expatriates from monopolising their workforce.
“In the wake of Arab Spring uprisings, the government views unemployment among nationals as a long-term strategic challenge that needs to be handled effectively,” according to the Arabian Gazette website.
“At least two million expatriates may lose their jobs or leave the Kingdom shortly as about 250,000 small and medium enterprises will be listed in the Red category of the Labour Ministry’s Nitaqat system," Arab News reported.
Meanwhile, Saudi Labour Minister Adel Faqih said that the process of Nitaqat will not be implemented in rush affecting the private sector.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Thursday said the new Saudi labour policy reserving 10 percent of jobs for locals is a major issue for India as it could lead to reduced employment there for Indians.
"It's a serious issue that will affect not only India but also other countries. Yesterday I spoke to the Indian ambassador in Saudi Arabia and has asked him to keep me informed on all the developments," the minister said.
Kerala's Diaspora Minister K.C.Joseph has said that the state government is seized of the issue and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will be getting in touch with the prime minister and other central ministers to ensure they make the necessary interventions.
"The one advantage that we have is our country has excellent relations with the Saudi government. At the same time if they have such a new rule, it's a policy of theirs and all what we can do is to intervene in the most soft manner, expressing to them our problems and the implications it would have on our economy as there would be huge unemployment in our state if the rule gets implemented in letter and spirit," Joseph said.
The situation has created anxiety among majority of Keralites who are working in small firms. According to the annual report of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Saudi Arabia continues to be the desired destination among low- and semi-skilled workers from India, attracting 289,297 people in 2011. In 2011, 2.28 million Keralites were working abroad. Of them, some 570,000 are in Saudi Arabia