Concern for Nepali workers as Saudi economy sputtersAs India prepares to evacuate a large number of its citizens working in Saudi Arabia following massive layoffs, Nepali officials said they are closely monitoring the situation to the ascertain the possible impact of falling oil prices on the Nepali workers there.
Kamal Dev Bhattarai
As India prepares to evacuate a large number of its citizens working in Saudi Arabia following massive layoffs, Nepali officials said they are closely monitoring the situation to the ascertain the possible impact of falling oil prices on the Nepali workers there.
Though there are no official reports of Nepali migrant workers facing layoff, officials said they are in “high alert”. Due to the sputtering Saudi economy, big companies are cutting on foreign workers.
Saudi Arabia, which became the largest recipient of Nepali labourers in the last one year, is home to around 600,000 Nepalis. The Department of Foreign Employment issued work permits to 138,529 Nepali workers in the fiscal year 2015-16.
Officials say there is the need for preparations as to what to do if Nepali migrant workers meet the fate of Indians. There are reports that big companies are dismissing foreign workers as they are going bankrupt.
Migrant workers are also facing problems in Kuwait in recent days. In Saudi, however, many employers have shut down their factories, some even leaving the country, throwing employees out of work.
“We have not received any information about the workers facing difficulties or layoff. However, we are trying to learn about the situation,” Deepak Adhikari, chief of the Middle East Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post over phone from Kathmandu.
Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Employment said it has not received any such information from Nepal’s mission in Riyadh and consulate in Jeddah.
Representatives of the recruiting agencies sending workers to Saudi Arabia said many companies there are closing down due to multiple factors, including falling oil prices and unrest in the Persian Gulf. They say its impact might be comparatively lower as a majority of Nepali workers are unskilled workers employed in construction, farming and service industry with relatively low pay.
“Demand for Nepali workers may slow down in the coming days if the situation does not improve. We are closely watching the developments there,” said Bal Bahadur Tamang, former chairman of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies. Despite the report of job cuts, Nepal continues to receive a healthy demand for workers from employers in the kingdom.
According to government data, about half a million Nepalis are working in Saudi Arabia. Though there are no reports of Nepalis becoming unemployed, there could be problems related to wage, officials say.
External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj has said that the number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over 10,000. “I assure you no Indian workers rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring this on hourly basis,” Swaraj tweeted on Saturday.
The Indian mission in Saudi is providing food for the jobless living in miserable conditions. State Minister for External Affairs VK Singh is flying to the kingdom to arrange for evacuation of the stranded Indian workers. The issue was raised by lawmakers in the Indian parliament on Monday.