Saudi Arabia Leads in Employing Sri Lankan Expatriates
By: Staff Writer
January 02, Colombo (LNW): In an unprecedented turn of events, 2023 saw Saudi Arabia becoming the prime destination for Sri Lankan expatriate workers. Over 63,000 Sri Lankans found employment opportunities in the Kingdom, solidifying Saudi Arabia’s position as the top destination.
This influx not only provided a lifeline to the individuals but also bolstered Sri Lanka’s economy, contributing immensely to the annual remittances of 7-8 billion dollars. These remittances are a vital source of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, particularly amid its severe financial crisis.
Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council continue to be a popular choice for Sri Lankan workers. Saudi Arabia, however, stands out, attracting not only general labor but also skilled professionals for its Vision 2030 mega projects.
Every year, more than 200,000 migrant workers leave Sri Lanka to work abroad.They are a main source of foreign exchange for the country, which since last year was gripped by its worst ever financial crisis.
P.M. Amza, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, estimated that in 2023 remittances amounted to over US $7 billion, of which a significant portion was contributed by expatriate workers in the Kingdom.
“During the year 2023, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become the number one country, generating 63,000 employment (opportunities) for Sri Lankans,” he told Arab News on Saturday.
“Of the annual remittances amounting to $7-8 billion a year, a sizable portion has been generated from the Kingdom, which is in the region of 15 to 20 percent of the total remittances.”
Gulf Cooperation Council countries are a preferred choice for Sri Lankan workers, with Saudi Arabia being their key destination, lately also attracting skilled professionals to its mega projects under Vision 2030.
These projects, in addition to a new employment scheme under the Skill Verification Program, were the main factors making the Kingdom increasingly attractive to Sri Lankans, according to Amza.
The SVP agreement signed in March aims to improve the professional competence of employees in the Saudi labor market and ease the recruitment process of skilled workers from the island nation.
Under the deal — which covers 23 professions — Saudi employers recognize accreditations issued by Sri Lanka’s Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission.
“The year 2023 has seen the qualitative and quantitative increase of employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in the Kingdom,” Amza said, adding that while half of Sri Lankan expats have been employed in the domestic sector, this year showed growth in the number of those working in the construction and hospitality sector.
“The signing of the agreement on the Skill Verification Program between the two countries has also contributed to this increase of skill and professional categories of employment, which stood at nearly 12,000 during 2023.