The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will introduce a new foreign manpower programme starting the next month by issuing visas for specific occupations, said Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, in Riyadh on Tuesday, Arab News reported on Wednesday.
Noting that the ministry was categorising the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes, he said that the previous labour category system would be gradually removed from the ministry’s system.
The new scheme will be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it will become compulsory, the daily reported.
According to Al-Omair, the new programme will be first applied to the manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.
Saudi Gazette also reported the same day that there are more than 2.6 million unskilled expatriate workers in the Kingdom.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Development's vocational examination programme will organise the tests for them in five stages, the first planned for the next month, in Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and Filipino languages, the daily reported.
An influential English-language daily in the oil-rich country, Saudi Gazette sourced the report from Makkah daily which quoted Naif Al-Omair, head of the ministry's vocational examination programme, to have told a workshop about this all on Monday.
Al-Omair said the workers from India will be examined in December while those from the Philippines will sit for the tests in May 2020 and those from Sri Lanka and Indonesia in July 2020 and those from Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan in December 2021.
"These countries export about 95 per cent of the workers to the Kingdom," he said, adding that there are eight training centres to hold the examinations in the central, western, eastern and southern regions.
Al-Omair explained that about 400,000 to 500,000 will sit for the vocational tests every year and they will have to pay fees ranging between SR400 and SR500.
He said the workers who pass the tests will be given a five-year certificates and added that the programme allows for testing the workers at their homes before they arrive in the Kingdom.
According to him, there are 7.18 million expatriate workers in the Kingdom of whom about 3.1 million do not have higher certificates (less than diploma) while 1.55 million are working in various marginal jobs and 2.62 million do not have working skills.
Bangladeshi expatriates account for around 1.1 million in the Kingdom.