The Saudi Arabia Labour Ministry announced that it will stop issuing visas for domestic helpers from both Indonesia and the Philippines, citing unfair regulatory provisions imposed by the two Southeast Asian countries.
The move comes amid an ongoing conflict between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia regarding the treatment of migrant workers.
Last week, Indonesia issued a moratorium on sending maids to Saudi Arabia after Saudi authorities beheaded an Indonesian maid convicted of murder without first informing the Indonesian government. The moratorium is set to remain in place until the two countries can sign a memorandum of understanding to protect Indonesian workers’ rights.
SIIA Insight: Indonesia issues moratorium on sending maids to Saudi Arabia [23 June 2011]
Similarly, the Philippines has imposed stricter conditions on the export of domestic helpers. Earlier this year, the government demanded that Filipino maids be paid a minimum of US$400 a month. However, Saudi Arabia refused this request, insisting the minimum monthly salary be lowered to US$200.
Manila had also demanded proof that Saudi households employing Filipino maids would pay and provide humane working conditions.
Report & Analysis: Saudi bans domestic workers from Indonesia, Philippines [AFP, 30 June 2011]
An estimated 250,000 Filipinos and 900,000 Indonesians work as maids in Saudi Arabia. Many of them are uneducated, and work overseas to escape poverty and unemployment at home.
Indonesian migrant workers send home US$7 billion a year in remittances, which helps to alleviate domestic poverty. In the Philippines, remittances from abroad comprise 10 percent of annual gross domestic product, keeping the local economy afloat.
A Saudi Arabia Labour spokesman said the Ministry would work with other countries to meet the shortfall expected from the stoppage of recruitment from Indonesia. Saudi officials have previously announced their plans to employ more domestic workers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mali and Kenya.
Report & Analysis: Saudi Arabia bans Filipino and Indonesian maids [AFP, 30 June 2011]
Report & Analysis: No more work visas for Filipino, Indonesian domestics [Arab News, 29 June 2011]
Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised to do more to protect the country’s large migrant workforce, who are allegedly exposed to regular abuse in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states due to poor or absent labour laws.
“In the future we plan not to allow migrant workers to live in the houses of their employers,” said Jumhur Hidayat, head of Indonesia’s national agency for the placement and protection of migrant workers. “That’s where the problem partly lies.”
Report & Analysis: Indonesia's maid trade thrives despite Saudi execution [BBC News, 29 June 2011]