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RIYADH, Oct 27 — With the new rule liberalizing the transfer of sponsorship set to come into force tomorrow, multinational companies hope that it will make it easier for them to recruit skilled manpower as thousands of job opportunities will be created in the health care, IT and construction sectors in different parts of the Kingdom.

Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi announced recently that the restrictions on the transfer of sponsorship for expatriate workers would be relaxed from Oct. 28. However, in order to avail of the new facility a worker should complete at least one year with his present employer.

Under the new rule, some workers are exempted from the one-year condition. These include those who were working for a company that was sold as well as workers of contracting companies that lose their government contracts.

Expatriates are not allowed to apply for jobs restricted to Saudis and the firms recruiting them are required to fulfill necessary Saudization conditions.

A spokesman of a multinational company told Arab News that even though it is relatively easier to hire expatriate workers from other companies, much depends on the sponsor. “Nothing can be done if the sponsor is not willing to give him release,” he said.

The new rule bars recruitment of foreigners for jobs reserved for Saudis. Accordingly, 56 job categories — including the positions of administrative managers and their assistants, procurement mangers, secretaries, car showroom salesmen and public relations jobs — are off-limits to expatriates.

Employers point out that while the government’s intentions are good, the inhibiting factors are higher wages for Saudis, low productivity and the element of uncertainty created by their grasshopper approach.

“We invest in their training program and absorb them on a higher pay scale. After one or two years, they gain some experience and take up another job on a higher salary. We are again back to square one. Secondly, if there is any dispute between a Saudi employee and the management, the labor court usually rules in favor of the employee. These ground rules will have to be changed if Saudization is to succeed,” he said.

Another provision in the government’s recruitment policy casts its shadow on the labor market. Under the law formulated in 2003, the Kingdom has imposed a 20 percent ceiling on the number of expatriate workers and their dependents as part of its determination to solve a mounting unemployment problem.

Though the plan will be executed within 10 years, the thrust of the exercise is on numbers rather than the quality of the manpower.

Such being the case, employers argue, what are the chances of the Saudization program making a big dent into the labor market when four economic cities will have been launched within the 10-year time frame.

Three economic cities in Rabigh, Madinah and Hail alone are expected to draw in more than SR155 billion ($41.3 billion) in investments and create nearly 100,000 jobs.

The major beneficiaries of the booming employment market in the health care sector will be nurses — a profession shunned by Saudi women due to the stigma attached.

The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Regional Director Chita Cilindro has announced that the Kingdom is recruiting 2,000 Filipino nurses to work there.

The recruitment was coursed through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), by the Saudi Embassy in Manila. She said the applicants must be graduates of Bachelor of Science in Nursing, with or without work experience.

PRC license is required if applicants are Christians, while it is optional for Muslim applicants, according to Cilindro.


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