Wednesday, 5 August 2009

New Saudi Law Exposes Saudi Callousness Towards Foreign Maids

Two years ago, Saudi Arabia decided to allow its own nationals to work as maid servants. A drop in oil prices and an increase in poverty levels forced the Saudi government to take this step so that many impoverished Saudi women, especially widows, could earn a livelihood. Despite a lot of resistance, the first group of maids have commenced work. The law permitting Saudi women to work as maids prescribes a monthly wage of 1,500 Saudi riyals (GBP238 or USD400) and prohibits their employers from making them work for more than 8 hours a day. Further, the maids are expected to work only when the masters of the households they serve are away from home.

I just wonder why the Saudi government can’t apply this rule to the thousands of foreign women who work there. Why can’t they too be entitled to a minimum wage of 1,500 Saudi riyals and a maximum of 8 hours a day? It is a well-known fact that foreign maids lead a miserable life while working in Saudi and other Arab countries in the middle-east.

May be I am wrong in expecting the Saudi government to take care of the poor women who beg, borrow and lie to make their way to the petro-rich, but human-rights poor nations of the middle-east. Maybe governments of countries like India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines which contribute the most number of maids, should do something about this. And pray, what can India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines do? Will it help if they restrict any further migration of maids to the middle-east until the governments in that region improve the maids’ lot? Theoretically this may sound possible, but I just don’t see it happening. I wring my hands in despair!

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