Unskilled workers will be severely threatened; Commencement of Vocational Qualification Examination in Saudi Arabia

Ashraf Vengat

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia with decisive moves on labor reforms. The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources announced yesterday that the examinations to prove the professionalism of foreign workers began. The scheme aims to ensure a fully skilled workforce in the country. The work qualification examination of foreign workers will be completed in various stages.

The first phase is for companies with 3,000 or more employees. According to the ministry, the exams for them will start from July 1. All institutions and foreign workers in the country will be eligible for the qualifying examination. Candidates currently working in various companies in Saudi Arabia and newly recruited workers from abroad are required to appear for the examination.

Companies with 500 to 2999 employees will have to appear for the qualifying examination in the second phase, 50 to 499 in the third phase, six to 49 in the fourth phase and one to five in the fifth phase. More than a thousand professions under 23 major departments are being examined.

As part of this, a five-year certificate will be issued to the winners of the examination which started on July 1. It is expected that the certificate will be renewed after five years. Those who fail the exams will be given three chances. The iqama of such workers will not be renewed if they do not pass three times. They will be repatriated. Leading occupations include electric, plumbing, mechanics, refrigeration, air conditioning, machinery maintenance, electronics, communications, welding, mining and construction. The exam, which represents 80 per cent of the total workforce, will be conducted in Arabic, English, Hindi, Urdu and Filipino.

The examinations will start on September 1 for the second phase large companies, October 1 for the medium enterprises in the third phase, November 1 for the Category A small enterprises in the fourth phase and December 1 for the B category small enterprises in the fifth phase. It is up to the sponsor or the related companies to find and make appointments for the centers in different parts of the country for the job qualification examination. Workers are required to complete the required exam preparation through the website https://svp.qiwa.sa/.

Once the examination time is available, the workers have to go to the examination center and complete the theory and practical examinations. The work permit of those who have passed the examination three times but have not passed will not be renewed. Iqama cannot be renewed after the expiry of the work permit. For such workers who fail at this stage, the only option is to return home.

The professional verification program takes place on two levels. Newly recruited candidates from abroad will be liaised with the International Job Inspection Centers in Saudi Arabia, where the examination of existing employees will be conducted through local accredited agencies directly appointed by the Ministry. The criterion for passing the work visa is to pass this examination.

The qualifying examination is aimed at improving the quality of the Saudi labor market, ensuring efficiency and nurturing the skills of the workers, said the Deputy Minister of Human Resources. Abdullah Abu Sayneem said. The objective of the Ministry is to ensure competence in the skilled sector and to eradicate the unemployed from the country. In any case, Saudi Arabia is closing its doors to unskilled workers. With the full implementation of such systems in 2022, many unskilled workers will have to return home. Saudi Arabia’s new move will be a major setback for tens of thousands of ordinary expatriates in the country, including Malayalees.