Proficiency tests made mandatory for work permits.
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor has introduced a new system that makes it mandatory for newly recruited foreign workers to undergo a proficiency test to get resident permits or iqamas.
Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi said the new system would be introduced gradually to existing workers of companies, adding that it would be made compulsory for the renewal of iqamas.
The minister launched the national work permit project and a model proficiency test center in Riyadh on Saturday. The new system is being introduced in the light of a decision taken by the Cabinet about three months ago. "In the beginning, the test will be given to service professions that affect the life of people," the minister said.
He said the test is introduced to ensure the qualifications and efficiency of workers. "Those who pass the test will be given work permits on the spot," Al-Gosaibi said. The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has set up a website in different languages for the purpose.
The TVTC developed the system for proficiency tests, using its technical expertise, under instructions from the Labor Ministry. A team of experts worked on the project, making use of local and international experiences.
The new move is significant in guaranteeing the quality and standard of workers in the Kingdom's labor market. There are more than seven million guest workers in Saudi Arabia. They come mostly from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Sudan.
The number of visas issued by the Labor Ministry for the recruitment of skilled foreign workers increased by 34.57 percent last year compared to visas issued in 2006. Al-Gosaibi attributed the increase to growing development and industrial projects across the Kingdom.
Last year saw the issuance of 1.7 million recruitment visas to the private sector, as opposed to 1.26 million in 2006. The number includes domestic servants.
Al-Gosaibi said proficiency test centers would be set up in other cities gradually, covering more professions at a later stage. Technical workers can register for the test through the organization's website and the test will be conducted through computers.
Al-Gosaibi announced a plan to establish a cooperative fund for the ministry's employees.
He did not disclose the size of the fund but indicated that it would comply with Shariah regulations.
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