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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia sign agreements on recruitment of skilled workers

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA- OCTOBER 25: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - "PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE OF PAKISTAN / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) meets Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (R) on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 25, 2021. ( Prime Minister's Office of Pakistan - Anadolu Agency )
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) meets Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (R) on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 25, 2021. [Prime Minister's Office of Pakistan - Anadolu Agency]

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have signed two agreements regarding the recruitment and well-being of Pakistani workers in the Kingdom, in a signing ceremony that took place yesterday in Riyadh.

The ceremony took place during the visit by Pakistan's Minister for Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood, in which he and Dr Ahmad Jabbar Al-Yamni from the Saudi firm, Takamol Holding – a subsidiary of the government – signed the agreements at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

In the first agreement, the two nations guaranteed the ease of the deployment of Pakistani workers to Saudi Arabia, the safeguarding of their rights, and the ensuring of their necessary legal protection.

The second agreement was on the issue of skills verification, which is set to advance and prioritise the deployment of skilled, qualified and certified Pakistani workers to the Kingdom. That concept, according to Pakistan's foreign office, is part of the plan set out by the government under Prime Minister, Imran Khan, which aims to improve Pakistanis' employability abroad.

In a statement by the Pakistani foreign office yesterday, it stressed that "Certification for our skilled manpower will create opportunities for technical workforce in Pakistan to get internationally recognised trainings and certifications."

Adapting to the new normal: Covid-19 and Pakistani workers in the Gulf

The statement praised the agreements as having a "far-reaching impact for enhancing the employment opportunities for skilled Pakistani workforce by joint certification and testing," which will be conducted by Takamol and Pakistan's National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC).

Under that cooperation, Pakistanis intending to gain work in Saudi Arabia will have to go through the Skills Verification Programme (SVP) by undergoing theoretical and practical assessments at exam centres in Pakistan in order to test their competency.

They will then be granted internationally-recognised joint certification by Takamol and NAVTTC, which will reportedly become a necessity for Pakistani workers who intend to work in the Kingdom. The SVP was introduced by the Saudi government in July this year, in an effort to regulate its labour market, but these agreements will now cement that programme.

The foreign office's statement assured that the agreements will also "safeguard the existing Pakistani work force in Saudi Arabia. It is expected that millions of Pakistani skilled workers will get gainful employment opportunities with higher earning as a result of the efforts of the government of Pakistan."

The agreements signed between Islamabad and Riyadh come after years of the Kingdom reportedly deporting hundreds of thousands of Pakistani workers over the past few years for a myriad of reasons, including expired visas, suspected involvement in crime, breaching Covid-19 measures and other issues such as quarrelling.

Over 87% of Pakistan migrant workers headed for UAE, Saudi Arabia in 2019

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