Saudi Arabia has agreed to lift a one-year ban on hiring domestic servants from the Philippines after bowing to Manila’s demands to protect the rights of its workers in the largest Arab economy.
After several months of negotiations, the two countries signed an accord setting the monthly salary of a Filipina maid in Saudi Arabia at a minimum SR1,500 ($400) and stipulating that the employer must give her a weekly day off and an annual holiday of at least 30 days.
The agreement, signed in Manila last week, also gave the maids from the Asian country the right to keep their passports during their stay in the Gulf Kingdom and to have a free ticket to her home country every year.
“Under the agreement, the employer must also open a bank account for the housemaid to transfer her salary to the bank at the end of every month…the employer is also bound to provide the maid with decent housing and food or an allowance for the two,” the Saudi daily Alhayat said.
Besides, employers must also bear all fees related to visa, residence, arrival and departure while they must treat their maids nicely and avoid forcing them to work at another house, the paper said.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil supplier, suspended visas for maids from the Philippines and Indonesia in 2011 in response to curbs on their travel at home following a series of incidents involving the maids in the Kingdom.
Newspapers said late last year that Philippine maids would be allowed to come back to Saudi Arabia within a month while those from Indonesia would be given visas again within three months.
The decision followed a visit by a high-ranking Saudi labour delegation to the Philippines and Indonesia, during which a tentative agreement was signed.
Newspapers gave no details of the agreement apart from saying it involves the creation of an insurance firm to ensure the rights of the maids.
Employment offices across Saudi Arabia have 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.
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 her female employer.