Stock - Riyadh skyline / Saudi economy / Saudi Arabia
A view of Riyadh city skyline. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s labour authorities plan to expand a vocational verification programme to as many as 160 countries as part of a scheme aimed at checking the skills of workers who will be employed in the kingdom and regulating the labour market.

Launched earlier this year by the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, the programme has been gradually applied in 62 countries.

Practical and theoretical tests

The programme, which features practical and theoretical tests, targets 23 sets of vocational categories and links the issuance of the worker’s visa to passing the tests in the homeland.

“The vocational verification programme targets labour in such professions as plumbing, electricity, etc,” said Nawaf Al Ayadi, the head of the Vocational Accreditation Programme at the Ministry of Human Resources.

“It has been launched in four main countries, covering 80 per cent of the expatriate workers to the kingdom. They are India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” he told the Saudi news portal Akhbar24.

The programme, he remarked, targets degree-holding workers. “The worker’s certificates are verified. The programme has been launched in 62 countries and is aimed to cover 160 countries,” the official said.

The scheme is part of the Ministry of Human Resources’s efforts to upgrade the quality of workers in the kingdom’s labour market, enhance professional services, boost productivity and halt access of unskilled workforce to the kingdom.

Large community of migrant workers

Saudi Arabia, a country of 32.2 million people, is home to a large community of migrant workers.

In late 2020, Saudi Arabia unveiled labour reforms, drastically revamping the country’s sponsorship system. Millions of migrant workers benefitted from the reforms, which came into effect in March 2021.

These reforms allow job mobility and regulate the exit and re-entry visa issuance for expatriate workers without employers’ approval. Employee mobility allows expatriate workers to transfer among employers upon the expiry of the binding work contract without the employer’s consent.