Agence France-Presse Posted at 05/21/2011 10:58 PM | Updated as of 05/21/2011 10:58 PM
MANILA – Saudi Arabia has rejected a demand to guarantee higher pay for Filipina maids, temporarily closing one of the largest labour markets for the struggling Asian nation.
The dispute began early this year after the Philippines demanded a minimum $400 monthly wage for its domestic workers as well as proof that Saudi households employing them would pay and provide humane working conditions.
With 1.3 million Filipinos on its soil, Saudi Arabia is one of the major host countries for the 9 million-strong Philippine overseas workers and the impasse will hurt both countries, Filipino labour official Carlos Cao told AFP.
“It’s a problem for both. On their part, they won’t have household service workers,” said Cao, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
“On the (part of the Philippine) government, we won’t be able to send out household workers.”
Filipinos working abroad sent $18.8 billion home to their families last year, up 8.2 percent from a year earlier, the central bank said.
Cao said the latest attempt to resolve the dispute with the Saudis broke down in bilateral talks held two weeks ago.
At that meeting, the Saudis agreed to furnish details of prospective employers to the Philippine government, but balked at the pay hike offering instead a base monthly salary of $210, Cao said.
He said Manila had crafted the measures in 2007 in an attempt to protect its citizens after repeated reports of rapes, beatings and even killings of Philippine domestic workers.
“There was no minimum (wage) imposed before that. So beginning (in) 2007, we required a minimum salary for all household service workers for all countries,” Cao said.
“We want to protect our household service workers.”
The two governments expect to resume ministerial-level talks on the issue next month, Cao added.
Apart from maids, Saudi Arabia also hosts higher paid Filipino professionals including nurses, doctors, and engineers.