The recruitment process accounts for a crucial part of the migration cycle from India to the GCC Countries. According to the World Bank data, nearly 75 per cent of the work force employed in the private sector in the GCC, constitutes of expatriates.With the entire recruitment cycle depending on the labour situation in destination countries, private employers prefer to hire non-national workers due to their availability on the basis of fixed term and job specific contracts under the sponsorship of nationals.
The recruitment process that operates to meet the demands of destination countries involves Recruitment Agents, training/skilling institutes and Foreign Employers. It entails that Recruitment Agencies (RA) are accountable for recruitment, training/skilling and matching of skills thereby complementing the work of the Government in the origin countries.The role of the Foreign Employer (FE) is crucial in asceratining and fulfilling the demands of the labour market in destination countries. In the context of India, FEs can recruit migrants through two channels: either through a registered Recruiting Agent in India or directly after obtaining a permit under Chapter IV of the Emigration Act. For the latter, permits can be obtained either from the local/nearest Indian Mission or from the Protector General of Emigrants, MEA.
The entire recruitment process takes place on the mandatory online portal known as eMigrate managed by the Ministry of External Affairs. This is an effort to mitigate recruitment through illegal channels and avoid manual interventions to make the recruitment process transparent.All the important stakeholders such as, Indian Missions, Bureau of Immigration (BOI), Overseas Workers Resource Centre, Protector Of Emigrant(s), etc. are electronically linked to the portal. FE raises the demand, the RA selects the candidates upon getting the demand and the FE sends the visa and the signed contracts for the selected candidates. Once the RA applies for Emigration clearance from the POE and receives it after verification of documents, departure from the Indian airports through BOI takes place. This process allows for linking migrant workers with employment opportunities and in ensuring decent working conditions.
These realities of the recruitment process have now been conditioned by the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected the economies of all countries, GCC being no exception. The Gulf countries which were already reeling with the depleting oil prices were forced to strategically close or scale down major gulf industries including; construction, retail, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, services, etc. which led to massive job losses for expatriate workers. With these job losses, the low skilled Indian workers were affected the most, forcing many of them to return home, often without receiving their wages, compensations and/or benefits.
Additionally, shifting labour market policies demonstrated by Vision Documents, such as the Saudi Vision 2030 and Oman Vision 2040 are aiming to skill and employ more nationals and limit the expatriate workers. Countries like Kuwait have also approved the Expats Quota Bill in July 2020 which reduces the number of Indian expatriate workers to mere 15 per cent as opposed to their current strength of 37.3% causing a direct impact on the 800,000 Indian migrants. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Transport Ministry in Oman have also taken measures, reserving delivery jobs for their nationals. Oman also announced that more nationals would be hired in the private health sector and shall replace expats in the public sector.Further, shifts are also being observed in major operations and activities. Conventional activities like oil and gas and real estate are giving way to digital marketing, IT services, distribution and logistics, medical clinics, cyber security, etc. leading to chances of migrants being hired in the above mentioned sectors if they equip themselves with required skills. Trends show that regions like the Middle East and Africa, has seen a 61% growth in the technology related jobs and a 200% increase in content management roles.
In this regard the role of FEs become even more crucial post Covid-19 in understanding the local market requirements and fulfilling the demands in the emerging sectors. FEs role is central in ensuring that migrants are not ill treated and provided all the basic facilities given at par with their nationals and it is their onus to prevent the abuse and protect their workers.
Given the size and scope of Indian workers’ presence in GCC Countries , it becomes pertinent to initiate dialogue with FEs to discuss and understand the future outlook of recruitment process to create better opportunities with decent working and living conditions for Indian migrants. Furthermore, focusing on the roles and challenges of the FE also allows for broaching the subject of labour market opportunities for Indian migrants to commensurate with their skills.
Against this backdrop, India Centre for Migration (ICM) is organising a consultation/panel discussion on ‘From India to the GCC Countries: Examining the Role of Foreign Employers (FE) in the Migration Cycle’ which will be aimed at (but not limited to) discussing the following: