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We don’t need no education?

We don’t need no education?

Saudi Arabia says you do. The kingdom has recently decided not to grant work visas to illiterate foreigners, a move which could be disastrous for some, and advantageous for others.

November 6, 2008 10:40 by



Recently, Saudi Arabia introduced a ban on visas for illiterate workers, stating that it was mandatory for people to be able to read and write. The embassy reportedly issues up to 1,200 work visas everyday, and reports say that the step will reduce import of workforce to the kingdom by two thirds.

So what’s the reason behind this decision?

The Saudi government justified the move, saying that it faced serious difficulties when dealing with illiterate workers. Arab News reports that the measure was taken after a study found that uneducated foreign workers topped the list of criminals in the Kingdom. Saudi’s Interior Minister Prince Naif had apparently set up a team of researchers to conduct a study on crimes committed by expatriate workers.

The move has brought about an outcry in Pakistan, which supplies much of Saudi’s labor force. According to Dawn, remittances from Saudi Arabia during the 2007 fiscal year topped $1.2bn.

While the policy will certainly limit the number of laborers entering the country, it could also prove beneficial to literate foreign workers. There have been several cases of laborers in the Kingdom being duped by the companies that hire them; last September, a Saudi company abandoned 450 Bangladeshi workers for a few days in Riyadh without food and water. If they were literate, perhaps they would have had a better chance of holding their company accountable for the way it treated them.



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