There has been an overwhelming positive response from society to the Labor Ministry’s recent decision to ban recruitment of domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines that came into force on Saturday, Al-Riyadh Arabic daily reported.
Welcoming the decision, many Saudi families described it as a step in the right direction. They noted that usually, employers imposed conditions for recruitment, but in the Kingdom this role had been taken up by domestic workers.
Cashing in on the employers’ inaction and lack of awareness about their rights, the housemaids and their respective countries try to impose tougher conditions that are unacceptable, many of them pointed out.
The ministry has taken the decision to stop issuing work visas following tougher hiring conditions imposed by the two Asian nations.
The move came as a reaction to an earlier decision of these countries to suspend recruitment of domestic workers to the Kingdom until it meets some of their strict conditions.
Yahya Maqbool, chairman of the recruitment committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recently noted that the decision to suspend sending domestic helps to the Kingdom would adversely affect these countries more than the Kingdom.
He pointed out that these countries would incur huge losses in terms of foreign remittances in addition to aggravating their unemployment problem. On the other hand, many Saudi families are now eyeing the prospect of hiring housemaids from countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Sri Lanka.
Reacting to the ministry’s decision, one citizen said: “It is a brave decision. This will, no doubt, force those countries that employ blackmailing tactics to realize the extent of losses incurred to their economies as a result of the halting inflow of Saudi riyals. I am sure that these countries will come forward to negotiate with the Saudi government with amazing concessions within the coming six months,” the citizen said on condition of anonymity.
Echoing the same feelings, another citizen described the ministry’s decision as positive. “Many of these housemaids come to the Kingdom for recreation, and not to work. They are often reluctant to do the household chores. Rather, they try to create problems and find excuses to go on vacation,” he said.
On the other hand, Ibrahim, a Saudi engineer, commended the brave and significant steps taken by the ministry to implement the labor law strictly. He hoped that this would prompt a number of countries to have a proper understanding of the Kingdom’s decent dealings with their citizens by making available millions of job opportunities and thus boosting the economies of those countries.
Lauding the Saudi ban on hiring maids, Abu Lama, another citizen, urged the ministry not to take any hasty steps to review the decision. “We have to bear the fallout of this decision until it bears fruit,” he said.
Labor Ministry spokesman Hattab bin Saleh Al-Anzi attributed the decision to stop issuing work visas for domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines to the tougher terms of recruitment announced by the two countries. “The ministry’s decision coincides with its efforts to open new channels to bring domestic workers from other sources,” he said.
A number of manpower recruitment officials also welcomed the ministry’s decision. They said that it came at a time when there was a huge rise in cases of blackmailing and imposing tougher conditions on the part of these countries without least consideration of the interests of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom’s ban has started yielding results sooner than expected, according to the newspaper. The Indonesian government officials are in the Kingdom for talks to resolve the crisis.
Senior Indonesian and Philippine officials have expressed concern over the decision, which has put a question mark on the fate of thousands of prospective migrant workers. It has also left the officials and diplomats of the two countries in limbo with doors closed for further negotiations, at least for the time being.
The Philippine authorities announced that they were ready to negotiate with their Saudi counterpart with regard to the contentious issues concerning wages and working conditions of their nationals.
A spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said that a Labor Ministry official would leave for Riyadh soon to sort out differences over the recruitment issue. On his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario noted that Saudi Arabia is among countries that host the majority of migrant workers from his country.
“It is estimated that some 1.3 million Filipino migrant workers, among a total of 9 million, are working in the Kingdom,” he said while admitting that the Saudi decision posed a big problem for the Southeast Asian country.
Meanwhile, some citizens urged the ministry to take quick action to solve the crisis in hiring domestic workers through opening alternate channels of recruitment, as they were in dire need of domestic helps as the holy month of Ramadan is close by. They demanded that the salary of new housemaids would not be higher than SR800. Efforts are under way to hire domestic workers at comparatively lower wages from countries such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia.