Saudi reopens door to Filipino maids

EXPECT longer queues of Filipinos applying for domestic works at the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Makati City as the Saudi government is reportedly lifting early next month its one-year ban on the deployment of domestic helpers in the Kingdom.

After months of negotiations and back-channeling, the Saudi and Philippine governments have finally reached an agreement that allows, among others, a minimum US$400 monthly salary, inclusive of housing and food, for Filipino domestic workers in the Kingdom.

Under the agreement, Filipino domestic workers will also be entitled to an insurance coverage, a weekly day-off, an annual holiday of at least 30 days, a bank account to transfer her salary, the right to keep their passports during their stay and a free plane ticket back to the Philippines.

In addition, the Saudi employer will also have to bear all fees related to visa, residence, arrival and departure and will have to treat their maids “nicely” and avoid forcing them to work at another house.

This development cannot, however, be considered as a complete victory for the Philippine government which has to give up its demands for a certificate of good conduct by the employer in Saudi Arabia, the number of family members, the location map of employer’s house, and the employer’s salary.

But there should be no cause for alarm, or much less furor, if the Philippine government was not able to successfully get all its rather intrusive demands from the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia, which employs around 1.5 million Filipinos, 400,000 of whom are domestic workers, has also introduced new laws that regulate the relationship between Saudi employers and their foreign housemaids and set up a mechanism to ensure for their mutual protection.

At present, there are about 60,000 pending applications for work visa from the Philippines not only among domestic helpers, such as maids, drivers and gardeners, in the Kingdom but also among highly-skilled workers and professionals, like doctors, nurses, engineers and architects.

Hopefully, this new accord, if implemented well, will help improve the living condition not only of Filipino domestic workers but also among other Filipino contract workers in the Kingdom who, in the past, have been subjected to many forms of abuses and maltreatment in the hands of their employers.

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