THE Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has come up with a major reform program that is seen to benefit the millions of migrant workers, including Filipinos, in the oil-rich Middle East nation.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed the decision of His Majesty King Salmanbin Abdulaziz Al Saud to remove key restrictions tying foreign workers to their employers in Saudi Arabia. And in decreeing the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), the KSA has demonstrated its readiness to address concerns over the traditional sponsorship regime that exists in most parts of the region.
The LRI, which is slated to take effect on March 14, 2021, allows a foreign worker to transfer to another employer without the current employer’s consent upon the expiration of his/her contract.
Likewise, the Labor Reform Initiative allows migrant workers, including Filipinos, to travel outside the kingdom without their employers’ approval upon contract expiration.
Under the current labor system in Saudi Arabia, foreign workers have little power to escape abuse because their employers control their exit from the kingdom and their ability to change jobs.
The LRI is part of “Vision 2030” spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to make KSA more attractive to foreign investors, expand the private sector, and diversify the local economy.
At the same time, President Duterte renewed his commitment to continue working closely with his Majesty the King to further strengthen cooperation in the fields of mutual interest.
Duterte expressed the same commitment in his meeting with the Saudi monarch during his state visit to KSA, the preferred destination of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in April 2017.
Like Duterte, the rest of the Filipino people, particularly the still growing army of OFWs and their dependents in the country, also welcomed KSA’s “breakthrough decision.”