Saudi Arabia is considering turning to India and Sri Lanka to meet soaring local demand for domestic workers following labour disputes with the Philippines and Indonesia and a decision to suspend hiring maids from Ethiopia.
Indonesia and the Philippines, among the largest maid supplier to the Middle East, have temporarily halted the travel of their domestic workers to Saudi Arabia following disputes over payment, mistreatment of maids by employers and other issues.
Several rounds of negotiations have so far failed to break the deadlock despite concessions by the Gulf Kingdom, including higher salaries for maids.
Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the world’s top oil exporter, banned the recruitment of Ethiopian housemaids last month following a series of deadly attacks by those maids on their employers.
One maid who killed a little Syrian girl told police she had committed the crime because she “was told so by an occult power.”
“There is a shortage of around 30 per cent in the supply of foreign domestic workers to Saudi Arabia because of the suspension of the recruitment of housemaids from Ethiopia and other countries,” said Mutlaq Al Hazmi, a member of the expatriate labour hiring committee at the Jeddah chamber of commerce and industry.
“There are plans to open the door for hiring domestic workers from India and Sri Lanka. I believe that this will make hiring maids from Indonesia unnecessary,” he was quoted as saying by Saudi newspapers on Wednesday.
Nearly two million housemaids from Asia and Africa work in Saudi Arabia, the largest base for expatriate domestic workers in the Middle East.