Will the hiring policies of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia result in the loss of jobs for Filipino and Indonesian maids?

Last week, the Indonesian government was upset when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beheaded a maid working there for murder.

From RaissaRobles‘ webpage:

Saudi authorities had refused to give Indonesian diplomats access to Ruyati Binti Sapubi because they said she had already confessed to the crime. Indonesia tried to ask for clemency and a chance to defend her in court. But over a week ago, it learned from news reports her head had been chopped off with a sword.

Reports of abuse of domestic help is not limited to the Middle East,of course, but both the Philippines and Indonesia, who supply many young women to work there as maids, have become upset by the lack of legal protection for workers, despite numerous reports of mistreatment, passport confiscation, and refusal to pay them a wage.

A 2008 report by Human Rights Watch shows a disturbing picture of abuse of many of these vulnerable women, yet their home countries have been loathe to pressure the governments where over a million Filipinos work.

Yet reports of abuse have resulted in human rights NGO’s here to pressure the government, who requested a higher monthly wage of $400, and that the prospective employer give his address to the Philippine government so that these women can be monitored for abuse.

Yet most of the maids are not being mistreated, and most report a good relationship with the families. The maids especially appreciate working for families who are pious: most Filipina women working in Saudi as maids, whether Christian or Muslim, are also pious, and that makes the cultural differences a bit less frightening to these young girls.

Supposedly, the ban will not decrease remittances sent home enough to affect the Philippine budget but it is a minor disaster to the families who rely on the salary of these maid to pay for things such as school fees or decent housing.

Here, it is common for families to have part of their loved ones working overseas. The best job is one that gets you into the US, UK, Canada or Australia. Nursing school is viewed here as a means to work overseas,  not to work in the villages or rural areas that desperately need them, but have few paying jobs available to encourage them to stay home.

And if you go to nursing school, even if you don’t pass your exams, you can probably find a job as a nanny or caretaker in the more prosperous regions of the world (e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK).

But for country girls with only a basic education, there are few local jobs that pay well, so often one person will volunteer to work overseas for a few years to pay school fees to educate his or her siblings.

But  there are other worries here about job losses from the area.

Not only are the maids being sent home, and not only have Filipinos had to flee places like Libya and Yemen, they are now in danger of losing their skilled jobs in Saudi so that unemployed local men can be hired.

From the PhilInquirer:

Between 20,000-50,000 Filipino domestic workers in the kingdom could be hit by Saudi Arabia’s decision announced last month to stop granting work permits to Philippine and Indonesian maids, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

Another 90,000 Filipinos of the 1.3 million working there could be affected by the new policy of imposing quotas for local staff, although the specialized skills of the majority should allow many to hang on to their jobs, she added.

According to StrategyPage, most Saudis work for the government, but most private industries prefer to hire outsiders

In the non-government sector of the economy, 90 percent of the Saudi jobs are taken by foreigners.

In the US, one sees a similar picture, where illegal immigrants take jobs “not wanted” by locals. But of course the dirty little secret is that if you raise wages and pressure the locals to take the jobs with economic incentives, the local unemployment rate will go down.

In Saudi, the lack of cushy government jobs and the failure of the private sector to hire locally has resulted in  a 12 percent unemployment rate in their young men, and as StrategyPage points out, boys want to do something to prove their manhood: one side effect of this is that boys join gangs: in LA this might be the Crips or Bloods, but in Saudi this might mean Alqaeda.

In the meanwhile, the good news is that the new administration here is busy working to clean up some of the corruption. And that could lead to more factories and hiring here so that ten percent of our population no longer have to leave home to work.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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