Expert allays Kerala fears over Saudi policy

Kerala’s fear over Saudi Arabia’s employment policy is a bit out of place, according to an expert. Not a single legal immigrant worker will lose his/her job. On the contrary, it will open new opportunities.

Labour migration experts point out that the Saudi government, under the Nitaqat programme, is trying to raise the representation of its citizens in the country’s workforce to a mere 10 per cent.

The apprehension that it will trigger an exodus of Keralites to the state does not hold water.

In Saudi Arabia, immigrant workers outnumber the national population.
Any measure that will drastically reduce their numbers will rattle the economy.

No administration having sense will initiate such a suicidal step, Thomas Mathew, a retired professor in economics and an expert on labour migration argues.

The programme was introduced in 2011 and concluded on March 27.

During the period, Saudi authorities found that lakhs of illegal immigrants were working in the country and the number of Saudi nationals in the workforce was woefully low. The government then asked employers to sack illegal workers, appoint the prescribed number of Saudis and fill the remaining vacancies with legal immigrants.

Those who defy the direction risks losing their business permit.

Mathew said: “In a way the policy is a blessing in disguise for the Indian legal immigrant worker. All jobs for which illegal immigrants have been engaged so far will be registered with the government. It is more beneficial for workers as they are entitled for all statutory benefits and they can move the authorities if it is denied.”

Around three lakh or more workers from Kerala may lose their jobs, but they are all illegal immigrants. But the sunny side is that the new policy will spawn equal or more numbers of jobs and legal immigrants can grab the opportunity.

The situation is not gloomy, Bhaskar Raj, a senior journalist in the region, told Deccan Herald.

The Kerala job market, now dominated by nearly 25 lakh migrant workers, can absorb the major chunk of the returnees, he argues.

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