MANILA — In a move to protect its economy, a Saudi Labor Ministry disclosed last week its plan to implement a “salary protection” program limiting the amount of money expatriate workers including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can remit to their home countries.
“About nine to 10 workers in the country are foreigners. This has led to millions of (Saudi) riyals being transferred back to their home countries, harming the local economy,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, quoted a high-ranking Saudi Labor official as saying.
Based on available data, there are around 8 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, 6 million of which are employed in the private sector.
Expatriate workers are remitting roughly 100 billion Saudi riyals to their respective countries.
“The ‘salary protection’ program is a mechanism of control in the outflow of remittance which may violate expatriate workers right on how to manage the fruits of their labor,” Monterona said.
The Saudi government, however, did not mention details of the program such as the percentage of migrant worker’s income to remain with them and how much is allowed to be sent home to their families.
“If this will be implemented (by the Saudi government) it is but proper for the sending governments including the Philippines to seek clarification on how it will be implemented as it will surely affect our fellow migrant workers and their families who are dependent on their remittances,” Monterona said.
Monterona, citing government statistics in 2010, the 1.2 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia sent home some US$1.5 billion in remittances. Remittances from Saudi were the third largest after Canada and the United States with $2 billion and $7.8 billion, respectively.
Last year, a total of $18.76 billion in remittances were sent by OFWs, or about 10 percent of the Philippine economy in 2010.