Kerala worried as expats may lose jobs to Saudi labour law

Kerala worried

Kerala is worried. Not over issues at home but a policy drafted thousands of kilometres away in Saudi Arabia.

The labour policy, known as Nitaqat, mandates that five to 25 per cent staff of a private company, with minimum 49 employees, must be Saudis. And the deadline to implement it expired on Wednesday. This has caused concern in Kerala which has seven lakh expatriates in the Gulf kingdom and whose remittances are a lifeline for its economy, though Dr S Irudaya Rajan, an expert on international migration studies, assures there is no need to panic.

"The move for Saudization began a decade back. Now, they have decided to strictly implement it, apart from cracking the whip on illegal migrants. No country can tolerate illegal migrants. I do not expect a mass exodus from Saudi as is being feared by the politicians and media in Kerala," Rajan said.

Those who lose their jobs in Saudi Arabia would move to other countries like in the past, Rajan said. In 2008, he pointed out, the Kerala government feared five lakh expatriates would return but that didn't happen. Rajan, however, said that those on a free visa, which is illegal, are bound to return. There are over 20 lakh Indians in Saudi Arabia.

The concern in Kerala was heightened after an official at the Indian mission in Riyadh was quoted in a Gulf newspaper as saying a large number of workers were visiting the embassy after the deadline to implement the labour policy expired. So much so that CM Oommen Chandy wrote to the PM to appeal the Saudis to extend the deadline.

Then on Friday, some people arrived in Kozhikode from Riyadh and told the media they had lost their jobs to Nitaqat and painted a bleak picture of Indians employed in Saudi.

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