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Monday, March 31, 2008

Novel Saudi idea: Treat maids as if they're human

The Saudi-based Arab News, which goes out of its way to appear progressive to Western audiences, shows again its racist mentality with this unreal article:
JEDDAH, 31 March 2008 — Spoil your housemaid if you want to keep her. Give her a salary hike, a day off each week and above all be gentle with her. This is the advice people should heed if they want to ensure their maids do not begin looking for employment elsewhere.

An estimated 7,000 maids run away from their Saudi employers each year. “Spoiling maids is the best way to keep them. Employers don’t want to lose their maids and go through the hassle of spending SR7,000 and reams of red tape to get a new one,” said a Saudi who went through the bitter experience.

The Kingdom is home to around 3 million foreign maids. Many work here illegally after arriving on pilgrim visas. Most housemaids in the Kingdom are Indonesian, around 1 million according to sources at the Indonesian Embassy. Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Indians and Moroccans follow.

Labor experts say that the main reasons for maids running away include low pay and abuse. ...
Abdul Qader Hussein, a teacher, has seen several of his housemaids run away.

“I used all means, such as locking the maid in her room at night and securing windows with iron grills, but they were of no avail. I can’t do without a maid because my wife is also a teacher,” he said.

“Finally, a friend of mine told me the secret of keeping a maid for long term. Give her a pay hike and treat her well. From SR700 I raised her salary to SR1,200, the highest amount she is likely to earn if she runs away. It worked. She is with us now for over two years. None of the maids in the past stayed for more than a couple of months,” he said, adding that he also gives his maid occasional gifts in the form of cash or clothes.

Maj. Muhammad Al-Hussein, spokesman of the Passports Department in the Makkah region, said that in most cases maids run away with the help of middlemen of their own nationality.

“They promise them new jobs with better pay and work atmosphere, including a weekly holiday, which Saudi sponsors seldom give,” he said.

“It has also been reported that some ill-treated maids have resorted to acts of vengeance before running away,” Al-Hussein added. According to one such report, two Indonesian and Filipino maids made their employers consume food containing urine, stool and blood.

Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, who runs a recruitment firm in Jeddah, said maids could be stopped from running away only if Saudi families learn to treat them with kindness like family members. “They should never be viewed with suspicion and prejudice,” he added.