Ever since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bagged a prominent place in the world economic map as the aftermath of oil fields discovered in the region, it has become one of the wealthiest and sought-after places for migrant workers. Among the many emigrants that arrive in Saudi to alleviate their poor economic condition at home are the citizens of the Philippines.
Filipinos, as termed, are either the migrants or decedents of the Philippines living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They make up the fourth-largest expatriate group in the Kingdom and contribute largely to the Philippines economy through remittances, making up the second-largest source of allowance to the nation. There are an estimated one million Filipinos working in the Kingdom, making the state the largest hirer of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and has the largest Filipino population in the Middle East.
However, as per government data available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Philippines, there are 2,297,551 Filipinos working in the Middle East with 938,490 living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Such an immense foreign population of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia also contributes heavily to the Kingdom’s lack of local workers.
Historical Relations Between Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The diplomatic ties between the Republic of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were established in October of 1969. However, the former state had recognized Saudi on November 15, 1946. After manifesting the relations, the first Philippine Mission was opened on December 23, 1973, in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
After the Land Acquisition Agreement was signed by the governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of the Philippines on April 10, 1985, the embassy moved to Riyadh, the official Capital City of Saudi Arabia, in July 1985 as per the Royal Decree of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Ever since these two nations established cordial relations, there had been quite a few political visits from both sides for signing business and political agreements to further strengthen the ties.
Migration of Filipinos to Saudi Arabia
It was in the year 1973 that Saudi Arabia welcomed its first batch of Filipino migrants; they were engineers who emigrated to the nation. Over the years, more and more Filipinos have settled in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the Saudi Arabian embassy in the Philippines presently processing between 800 and 900 jobs for Filipinos daily. In the year 2008, Saudis had nearly 300,000 job opportunities for Filipinos.
While initially Filipinos were confined to construction jobs as engineers, they readily moved to other sectors in the later years. Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to hire around 6,000 Filipinos as doctors and nurses between the years 2009 and 2011. Additionally, Filipinos working in Saudi has moved beyond medical professionals with them occupying jobs in the automotive and construction workers sector, in the fields of desalination, petroleum production and processing, telecommunications, and transportation.
Educational Structure of Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Ever since Filipinos began arriving in the Kingdom, there had been a rise of educational institutes solely for OFWs. As per the latest data of 2006, Saudi Arabia hosts nearly 75 percent of the Philippine international schools represented by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). In total, there were 13 Philippine private schools in Riyadh and has 5 Philippine private schools in Jeddah in 2006.
The history of starting Philippines schools in Saudi dates back to the 1980s when several Filipino workers began arriving in the city with their families. As the need for an educational structure molded around the Philippines culture and ethics rose, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah began making efforts to establish a school in 1983. Later, Riyadh and other prominent cities were taken into account while opening more educational institutes. The same number grew to 21 Philippines schools recognized by CFO in 2006, showing a 133 percent growth rate from 2000.
Current Demographics and Economic Benefit to Filipinos
- There is no concrete data and evidence on Filipino males and females working in Saudi, however, the majority of women work as domestic helpers and nurses.
- Almost every male Filipino is employed in construction, transportation, Oil, and similar industries.
- 1 out of 4 OFWs works as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia.
- Saudi Arabia is one of the most preferred destinations for OFWs followed by UAE.
- As per Statista, the total value of cash remittances to the Philippines sent by Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia amounted to approximately $2.2 billion US in 2018.
- In the last five years, the value of cash remittances from Saudi Arabia’s OFWs has decreased.
- In 2014, the cash remittances to the Philippines from Filipinos in Saudi Arabia were $2.84 billion.
- In 2020, cash remittances to the Philippines amounted to $2.6 billion in January, indicating a downfall from $2.9 billion in December. However, Saudi Arabia grabbed the third position for contributing to the Philippines economy through remittances.