A plummet in the price of oil has prompted construction layoffs in Saudi Arabia, leaving thousands of Asian overseas workers, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), without jobs, officials announced on Tuesday, August 2.
Gilbert Saludo, Migrante International coordinator in Saudi Arabia, told Agence France-Presse that the layoffs may affect as many as 20,000 Filipinos. There are more than 1 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
He added that Manila has extended financial aid, but said he was unclear of the extent of the aid. The situation is unlikely to improve given the country’s dependent on oil revenue, Saludo said.
“It will get much worse because so much of the income of Saudi Arabia comes from oil…so their budget for infrastructure and other projects will not be met and more people will be affected,” Saludo said.
Chairman of the Migrante group Garry Martinez said that some Filipinos have resorted to living on the streets to survive after months of not getting paid.
Migrants officials in Manila said that OFWs were not allowed to leave because they did not have the proper permits and months of back pay were still pending.
Additionally, the Saudi government requires overseas workers to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their employers or sponsors in order to return to their home countries. To grant a NOC to workers is up to the discretion of the employer.
Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello visited Saudi Arabia in July to attend to the issue, but AFP said that he did not elaborate.
Also affected are thousands of Indian and Pakistani workers. On Monday, August 1, India had been in talks with Saudi Arabia to bring back Indian nationals who have lost their jobs and had no money to return home.
There are reportedly 10,000 Indian workers out of jobs and starving. The Indian consulate in Jeddah has been providing shelter and resources to Indian workers out of jobs.
Pakistan confirmed it had its own workers stranded in Saudi Arabia, but it’s unclear how many. Pakistani officials had established resources centers for Pakistani nationals, according to the AFP report.
“We stand by our hardworking workers who are away from their homeland to earn a living for their families. They are our strength and pride. We will help them out in all possible ways,” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.