Saudization means fewer overseas work opportunities for Filipinos

by Mark Pere Madrona

Through the years, much has been written about the misfortunes that plagued overseas Filipino workers. Countless OFWs have been abused physically and sexually. Many were forced to work in extremely inhumane circumstances under cruel employers (who probably regard their workers as a material possession). For sure, maltreatment of OFWs happen anywhere in the world, but the stories of abuse coming from those who worked in Middle Eastern nations are more common – and more disturbing[1]. Nevertheless, nothing can stop Filipinos from seeking overseas employment.

With over a million Filipinos currently employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia[2], the recently implemented Nitaqat system (or “Saudization” of the work force) is certainly not good news for the Philippine economy. Our nation’s labor export policy has been in place for over three decades now, having been initiated by then President Ferdinand Marcos[3]. This scheme has mitigated the country’s perpetual unemployment problem. According to the latest labor figures, there are 11.3 million Filipinos who are unemployed[4]. OFWs had also kept the economy afloat through the billions of dollars in cash remittance they’ve sent back home annually[5].

The realities cannot be denied. Even those who have graduated with honors from the Philippines’ best universities are having a hard time finding a job. Many eventually settle for the first job offer that comes their way – never mind if the compensation package is not at all attractive (or if the work has nothing to do with what one has specialized in). As economists always point out, underemployment is preferable to unemployment. It is also a fact that salaries earned by those who opt to work locally pale in comparison to what one can possibly earn in other countries.

Contrary to insinuations that the Saudization policy was implemented merely as a revenge for the recent investigations conducted by the Philippine Congress regarding the abuse of OFWs in the Middle East, the scheme was actually put into place because the oil kingdom is also experiencing worsening unemployment. Arab News reported last month that as much as 10% of the entire population does not have jobs. Among females, unemployment could be as high as 30%, the paper added[6].

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About markpere2010

Mark Pere Madrona has worked as an editor for a book publishing company. A former intern for the Philippine Star, he has contributed articles and write-ups for Philippine Daily Inquirer, VERA Files, and Yahoo News Philippines as well as online media sites like AllVoices and Definitely Filipino. He received the Best Text Blog award during the 7th Annual PopDev Media Awards for his series of posts tackling migration, premarital pregnancies, and sex education.
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