20,000 jobs await Filipino nurses in Middle East

By Mayen Jaymalin Updated January 03, 2009 12:00 AM

Job recruiters expressed optimism yesterday that at least 20,000 jobs await Filipino nurses and other health workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.

Lito Soriano, president of LBS E-recruitment Solution Inc., said Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries are in dire need of healthcare-related workers.

He said representatives from various hospitals in Saudi Arabia are arriving in the country this month to recruit the necessary workers.

“Teams from King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital arrived yesterday and other teams from other medical hospitals are also arriving in the coming weeks,” Soriano added.

Aside from Kind Fahd, other hospitals recruiting health workers are Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah, Prince Sultan Cardiac Center in Riyadh and King Khalid Military Hospital in Hafr Al Batin.

The Philippines is having difficulty filling up the job orders from the Middle East due to lack of experience among Filipino health workers, Soriano said.

Recruitment agencies, however, warned local nurses yesterday that a continued slowdown is projected in the hiring of Filipino nurses in the United States this year.

Soriano said the hiring of Filipino nurses in the US has declined since 2004 due to the slow processing of nurse visas by American immigration authorities.

The US Citizenship Immigration Service (USCIS) admitted the need to fill up the requirement for 1.2 million new registered nurses by 2014 to meet the growing demand for heath workers in the US.

The processing of US visas for foreign nurses, including Filipinos, has remained slow despite the growing demand.

Soriano said the request of the US Immigration Service’s Ombudsman to the USCIS would not immediately hasten the processing of visas of Filipino nurses applying to work in the US.

“The recommendations made by the Ombudsman to USCIS are merely proposals for improving the processing of nurse visas and not immediately executory,” Soriano explained.

He pointed out that the recommendations would have to be adopted by the USCIS after hearings and consultations with the government and private nursing sectors in the USA.

“News reports that the US market has opened up and the lengthy period for entry of Filipino nurses to the US has been shortened are therefore not true,” Soriano clarified.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the re-nationalization program in Middle East and European countries is unlikely to affect the hiring of skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Roque said that since 2001, various Arab Gulf states have restricted the entry of foreign workers, including Filipinos, but that many countries would still be needing Filipino workers in the so-called “3Ds” or jobs classified as difficult, dirty and dangerous.

Local recruitment industry officials have warned of a possible decline in the hiring of Filipino workers because of the nationalization program in European countries.

Soriano said a slowdown in the deployment of OFWs is expected in oil exploration and service sectors abroad.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) confirmed that nationalization policies in Middle East countries remained a threat to the hiring of OFWs.

Soriano said European countries have also announced plans to restrict the entry of foreign workers and to prioritize the hiring of their nationals.

Canada and Australia are planning to impose measures to protect their own citizens and limit the hiring of foreign workers.

Companies in the United Kingdom have also announced plans to reduce their workforce in 2009 due to the global financial crisis.

POEA Administrator Jennifer Manalili, however, remained optimistic that Middle East countries would continue hiring Filipino workers.