Saudi plans to continue extensive use of migrant labor
By Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.
Skilled and unskilled expatriate workers would be needed here for many years because of the major development projects that are under way, including the economic cities and metro rail projects.
This is according to Shoura Council member Saad Al-Bazei and Mario A. Balboa, chairman of the Philippine Council of Engineers and Architects (PCEA).
“These massive developmental projects need manpower not available locally. So the country has to rely on foreign workers,” said Al-Bazei, a former professor at King Saud University.
These foreign workers include Western architects and engineers as consultants and those needed for blue-collar jobs, he said.
Most of the semi-skilled and unskilled workers would come from the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. At present, Saudi Arabia has a population of 29.5 million with 9 million expatriates.
“I also believe that expatriates, including Filipinos, will continue to work in the Kingdom for the next several years,” said Balboa.
He believes that there would be many more projects in the country.
“The Kingdom is big, at 2.16 million sq km or 830,000 square miles. It’s about 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. It has much space for development,” he said.
His group and the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE) have signed an agreement to participate in the massive developmental projects in the Kingdom.
The PCEA, an umbrella organization of 13 Filipino groups of engineers and architects, has 16,297 registered members at the SCE.
These projects include the economic cities in Rabigh, Hail, Madinah and Jazan and the metro projects in Riyadh and Jeddah.
The four economic cities reportedly require more than 1.5 million workers.
The 168-million-square-meter King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh requires more than 1 million workers.
Many of these positions involve blue-collar jobs including drivers, janitors and tea boys.
The project is expected to create homes for 4 to 5 million residents and contribute some $159 billion to the Saudi gross domestic product (GDP).
The 100-million-square-meter Jazan Economic City with an investment of $27 billion needs 500,000 workers and would eventually provide homes for 250,000 people.
The 156-million-square-meter Knowledge Economic City in Madinah requires 20,000 workers, while the Prince Abdulaziz bin Musaid Economic City in Hail, over 156 million square meters, requires 55,000 workers.