JEDDAH — The shortage of domestic workers that has intensified throughout the Kingdom in the past six months is expected to end soon as viable solutions have been found to resolve the crisis, according to sources in the recruitment business.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has agreed to license recruitment companies that will provide work visas to foreigners and find jobs for them in the households of Saudis and expatriate residents in various parts of the country. The Ministry of Labor is expected to give its final approval for the companies to start their operations within a few weeks.
Once the recruitment companies become operational, prospective employers can hire domestic workers directly from them without the need of intermediaries. The companies will make available enough number of workers who live in the Kingdom legally.
According to businessman Nasser Abusarhad, who heads the founding committee of the newly formed International Recruitment Company, the companies will be solely responsible for the entire recruitment process. They will obtain entry visas and work permits for the workers and will also bear the cost of placement, including recruitment fees and travel expenses.
The companies must cover the workers’ medical costs whenever necessary and will be responsible for providing the families with replacements if a worker flees the workplace or is found unfit for work. In return, the recruitment company holds the right to retain the workers’ passports. Under the current system, the employer keeps the workers’ passports. The companies must provide decent accommodations to the workers for the interim period between their arrival in the Kingdom and finding employment.
Abusarhad says there are several advantages to obtaining a domestic worker through the new arrangement compared to the old system of recruiting, sponsoring and hosting a domestic worker from abroad.
One positive aspect is the shorter waiting period. Instead of waiting for two to three months for the arrival of domestic help from abroad after obtaining the visa, Saudis will now be able to hire help in half an hour by just visiting a recruitment company’s local office.
The employer is spared the complicated process of recruitment that starts with applying for work visas as well as the exorbitant costs. Under the new system, an employer is required to pay his domestic workers a monthly wage of between SR1,300 and SR1,800. He must also guarantee payment of the wages on time and fair treatment of the workers. The wage varies depending on sex, nationality, experience and training of the domestic worker. The news comes as a great relief to many expatriate families in the Kingdom.
“Since we are not Saudi, we have been unable to obtain a work visa for a domestic helper. I have been depending on housemaids who live illegally in the country. These workers know that expatriates are desperate to find domestic help so they take advantage of us by demanding unreasonably high salaries,” said Oula, a mother of four who works as a school teacher. “The last housemaid I interviewed demanded a salary of SR2,000 and she gave me a list of chores that she is unwilling to perform, such as cooking, pressing clothes and babysitting,” she added.
Oula expressed the hope that the new recruitment companies would ease many of the difficulties they have had in the past in finding reliable domestic help.
“The establishment of recruitment companies aims to regulate the process of the entry of foreign domestic workers into the Kingdom.
The move will also encourage a healthy competition among recruitment companies that will ensure the availability of well-qualified and properly trained domestic workers,” Mufarrij Al-Haqbani, Deputy Minister of Labor for Planning and Development, told Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.
The new system will also protect the rights of the domestic worker while it clearly states his or her responsibilities and duties towards the employer, he added.
At the same time, the current system of sponsorship by individuals or host families will continue to remain as an option for hiring domestic workers in the Kingdom, Al-Haqbani said. — SG