Pinoy nurses urged to look for jobs in Saudi, not in America

FILIPINO nurses looking for gainful employment overseas should set their sights on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the foreign labor market remains highly favorable, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said Monday.

Buoyed by elevated commodity prices, the world’s largest oil producer has emerged as the most aggressive recruiter of Filipino nurse practitioners, overshadowing economically troubled America, according to TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera.

“Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East are definitely still hiring Filipino and other foreign nurses,” said Herrera, former chairman of the

Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

Herrera played down the potential adverse impact of Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat program on migrant Filipino workers.

He said the kingdom imposed Nitaqat just to appease its citizens, amid mounting social unrest and political turmoil in neighboring countries.

Nitaqat has required more than 300,000 firms in the kingdom to increase their hiring of locals, and lessen their employment of foreigners.

Herrera, however, said Filipinos in Saudi Arabia are mostly performing jobs or services that Saudi citizens themselves do not want, or could not provide.

Saudi citizens mostly prefer to be employed in the public sector, in the civilian bureaucracy, or in banks and financial institutions, where they could

work in the relative comfort of an office environment, the former senator pointed out.

“Our nurses, household service workers, even our skilled construction laborers there won’t be affected that much by Nitaqat,” Herrera said.

President Aquino earlier ordered the Department of Labor and Employment to study the possible negative effect of Nitaqat on Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, who sent to their families here more than $1.5-billion in 2010 alone.

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Herrera said a total of 8,771 “newly hired” Filipino nurses were deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2010, without counting those whose labor contracts were simply renewed, or rehired.

He said Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Taiwan, Jordan and Bahrain are also still hiring Filipino nurses, though at a slower pace.

These nine countries received a combined 3,660 newly hired Filipino nurses in 2010, Herrera said.

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