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Implications of “Nitaqat”, Saudi Arabia's Indigenization Program, Likely to be Modest for Migrants

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

Saudi Arabia's recent indigenization effort titled "Nitaqat" came into effect on September 10. Saudi firms have been color coded to four categories - Red, Yellow and Green, and Blue/VIP.  Firms labeled "Red" will not be able to renew their foreign workers' visas and have until November 26 2011 to improve their status by hiring more Saudi natives.  "Yellow" firms have until February 23 2012 to improve their status and will not be allowed to extend their existing foreign employees' work visas beyond six years.  "Green” or “Excellent” firms with high Saudization rates will be allowed to offer jobs to foreign workers that are employed by firms in the Red and Yellow categories and transfer their visas. And firms in the highest “VIP” category will enjoy the ability to hire workers from any part of the world using a web-based system with minimal clearance.

Are migrants more likely than nationals to be unemployed during economic crisis?

Sudharshan Canagarajah's picture

There has recently been heated debate regarding migrant employment behavior in host countries during and after economic crises. The popular view is that migrants have an incentive to remain unemployed as long as they have access to unemployment benefits, free health care, and education. Thus, many argue, that migrants should not be provided with benefits as they create perverse incentives for migrants to stay unemployed. However, recent data does not support such a simple relationship. In fact recent data shows that sometimes migrants that lose jobs tend to find work quickly during and after crises.

A recent article in the Economist based on OECD Migration Outlook 2011 provided some useful data to show the complex patterns of migrant unemployment compared to nationals. The data shows that the relationship between migrants and unemployment incidence depends on a variety of labor market conditions including unemployment benefits, skill level of migrants, business cycle patterns, the sectors they are employed in, and labor market flexibility.

Equal pay for equal work for migrant workers?

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

The recent negotiations between Philippines and Saudi Arabia about the minimum living wages for migrant workers have resulted in a stalemate. Philippines is demanding a minimum wage of $400 per month for its workers, while Saudi Arabia is willing to stipulate a minimum wage of $200 per month. Saudi Arabia stopped processing contracts of Filipino workers in March, recently the Philippines has said that it will not send Filipino maids to Saudi Arabia until the dispute is resolved. Saudi Arabia hosts 1.2 million Filipino migrants and accounts for nearly 300,000 overseas deployments annually, while the Philippines receives $1.5 billion annually in remittances from Saudi Arabia. Thus, this wage dispute could lead to loss of employment opportunities for Filipinos, involve cost of reintegrating returning workers, and a reduction in remittance flows -- all of which could adversely impact the Philippine economy. 

Will the economic recovery increase demand for immigrants in the labor market?

Sonia Plaza's picture

A recent study by PEW Hispanic Center states that immigrants are finding jobs faster during 2010.  According to the report “immigrants in the U.S. have gained 656,000 jobs since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. By comparison, U.S.-born workers lost 1.2 million jobs. The unemployment rate for immigrants fell over the same period to 8.7 percent from 9.3 percent. For American-born workers, the jobless rate rose to 9.7 percent from 9.2 percent.”

Two other labor indicators show a recovery for immigrants workers in the US labor market: 1) an increase in the labor force participation from 68% in the second quarter of 2009 to 68.2% in the second quarter in 2010; 2) an increase in the employment rate from 61.7% to 62.3% during the same period. The study also points out at the greater mobility of immigrants in finding jobs in different states. In a previous podcast we underscored the mobility of hispanic immigrants due to their diaspora connections (see previous post).

Diaspora bonds for development financing during a crisis

Dilip Ratha's picture

On September 16 Greece announced that it plans to issue a diaspora bond. In the past the governments of India and Israel have raised over $35 billion dollars, often in times of liquidity crisis. Preliminary estimates suggest that Sub-Saharan African countries can potentially raise $5-10 billion per year by issuing diaspora bonds. Countries that can potentially consider diaspora bonds are Bangladesh, Colombia, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (and also Greece, Ireland, Italy, South Korea and Spain). 

US signs historic deal with El Salvador and Honduras for remittance securitization

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

The United States has recently signed separate Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with El Salvador and Honduras to assist them in securitizing their future remittance receipts to raise financing for infrastructure and development projects. Under the Building Remittance Investment for Development, Growth, and Entrepreneurship (BRIDGE) initiative, banks in these countries will leverage their future remittance receipts to raise lower-cost and longer-term financing in international capital markets to fund infrastructure, public works, and commercial development initiatives (see press release).

In a speech in New York City on September 22, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained how BRIDGE would work to raise critically needed development funding:

“…Now, if they [migrants] send these remittances through the formal financial system, they create huge funding flows that are orders of magnitude larger than any development assistance we can dream of. By harnessing the potential of remittances, BRIDGE will make it easier for communities in El Salvador and Honduras to get the financing they need to build roads and bridges, for example, to support entrepreneurs, to make loans, to bring more people into the financial system…..Through BRIDGE and its in-country partners, local banks will be able to leverage their remittance flows….With the leverage from remittances, the local banks will be able to get lower-cost, longer-term financing for investments in infrastructure projects and small businesses.”

Mobile phone technology and remittance services for the poor

Dilip Ratha's picture

  Photo - istockphoto.com
At a meeting with CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) colleagues yesterday, I tried to barter my limited knowledge of remittances for their extensive knowledge of mobile technology and its vast potential to serve the poor. It occurs to me that among others, there is one more compelling reason for applying mobile technology to remittance services: the bulk of poor migrants tend to travel short distances, mostly within the country or to neighboring countries just across the border, and a large number of them stay within the calling range of domestic mobile phones. Such migrants typically cannot have bank accounts in the host country, and in any case banks do not want to serve them. These migrants rely on friends (or strangers) going home or hawaladars to send money home. More recently, it appears that they have discovered the idea of transferring mobile phone minutes. M-Pesa in Kenya has done well by capitalizing on this technique. Other mobile providers are also beginning to offer mobile phone remittances.

Poverty fell in Pakistan in 2001-08 partly because of remittances - Migrants can help in reconstruction after devastating floods

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

A World Bank report released on July 30 finds that poverty in Pakistan fell by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08). Three out of Pakistan’s four major provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Punjab, and Sindh – saw significant declines in poverty during this period. The largest fall in poverty was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Bank report “high level of remittances, both foreign and domestic, seem to have facilitated” the decline in poverty in KP.

     UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal
Pakistan saw migrant remittances reach a record $ 8.9 billion in fiscal year 2010, an increase of 14 percent compared to the 2009 fiscal year despite the global economic crisis (Pakistan’s fiscal year runs from July to June). The World Bank report says “Continued strong growth in worker’s remittances in the past few years has also contributed to improvements in the external current account balance” and “have facilitated improvement in the country’s external position”. 

What are the consequences of the best and brightest emigrating?

David McKenzie's picture

The very name “brain drain” suggests that high-skilled migration can be nothing but bad for developing countries. Indeed, the prospect of a harmful effect of brain drain is often one of the first concerns raised in policy discussions around migration, and every day the news is filled with statements such as “the Philippines is suffering a crippling brain drain”, “brain drain still a big concern” in India;  and that Bangladesh “must stop brain drain to take the country forward”.

However, recently there has been a surge of more optimistic views of highly skilled migration, ranging from theories of “brain gain” in which the prospect of migration in the future induces people (including those who end up not migrating) to get more education; the idea of “brain circulation”, in which migrants are meant to do wonders for their home countries once they return with knowledge and ideas from abroad; and the “create-your-own Silicon Valley” view of diaspora as a source of trade, investment funds, and inspiration.

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