Saudi Arabia set to re-admit Philippine maids

Two sides report agreement on terms of hiring Filipina domestic workers

Saudi Arabia is set to lift a ban on the recruitment of housemaids from the Philippines introduced early this year following tough terms imposed by Manila on sending domestic workers to the world’s largest oil exporter.

The Gulf Kingdom, the largest Arab economy, will soon reopen the door for the recruitment of Philippine maids after the two sides reached compromise on a work contract that removes most of the terms imposed by Manila, including a good conduct certificate for the Saudi employer.

The new agreement set the monthly salary of a Philippine housemaid at a minimum SR1,500 ($400), inclusive of housing and food. The agreement left it for the employer and employee to specify the basic salary.

“We have reached an agreement in this respect and we expect the Saudi ministry of labour to open the door again for issuing visas for domestic workers from the Philippines,” said Waleed Suweidan, director of the Saudi-Philippine business council in the capital Riyadh.

“We have sorted out all previous problems and obstacles with the Philippine side, which has cancelled all terms it has stipulated in the previous contract, including a certificate of good conduct by the employer in Saudi Arabia, the number of family members, and the employer’s salary,” Suweidan told local newspapers.

Early this year, Riyadh suspended the hiring of housemaids from the Philippines and Indonesia after the two countries introduced stringent terms for their employment in the Kingdom, one of the world’s largest bases for Asian housemaids and the second for Philippine domestic workers after the UAE.

Employment offices across Saudi Arabia said they were already negotiating with other countries to supply maids and offset a shortage resulting from the boycott of Philippine and Indonesian domestic workers.

 “There is a possibly to hire maids from Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Eritrea despite the delay in procedures in these countries….we could also allow maids from Cambodia and Mali after the signing of an agreement with them in this respect.” said Saad Al Baddah, chairman of the national employment panel.

More than 1.5 million housemaids from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other Asian and African nations work in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom has been under fire from local and foreign human rights groups over the death of some housemaids, who have been reportedly killed by their employers. Pressure mounted in late 2010 following news that an Indonesian housemaid was severely tortured by its female employer.

The case of the 23-year-old maid, Sumiati Salan Mustapa triggered furor through the Kingdom and other countries after she was hospitalized with severe head and body injuries because the torture by hot iron.

“We expect the ban on the recruitment of Philippine maids to be lifted soon…this decision will be taken by the ministries of labour and foreign affairs as well as the Saudi embassy in Manila,” Suweidan said.

Newspapers in Saudi Arabia also quoted Philippine ambassador in Riyadh, Izzuddin Taju, as saying hiring of maids from his country would be through recruitment offices which are authorized by both Riyadh and Manila.

“We have presented a new formula for the job contract for Philippine domestic workers to the Saudi ministry of labour and are now awaiting a decision from the ministry to end the ban,” the ambassador said.

He said recent cases of violence against housemaids and delays in payments for them remain “individual cases and not a phenomenon.”

Taju estimated nearly 600,000 Filipinos live in Saudi Arabia, adding that they prefer to work in the Gulf over other countries.

“Saudi Arabia is now the second largest base in the region for Philippine workers after the UAE,” he said.


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