The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) said it will no longer issue work visas for Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers starting on July 2.
“The Ministry of Labor will stop issuing work visas for domestic workers for the Philippines and Indonesia from Saturday (July 2),” Hattab Bin Saleh Al-Anzi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labor said, according to a report on news site Arab News.
The decision of the Saudi government will affect 180,000 domestic workers in KSA, or about 15 percent of more than 1.2 million Filipinos working in the Kingdom.
According to the report, Al-Anzi said the ministry decided to stop hiring domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia after the two countries imposed stricter conditions on prospective KSA employers.
New contracts made by the Philippines require foreign employers of Filipino domestic helpers to pay a minimum wage of $400 a month.
The Philippine government also urges employers to provide family information and the layout of the residence where the domestic helper will be working.
According to Arab News, the Saudi government wanted the Philippine government to alter these requirements in the labor contracts of Filipino domestic workers.
On April 27, the Kingdom sent a delegation to the Philippines to negotiate the labor dispute but talks broke down, the report said.
The report said Philippine Embassy in Riyadh labor attaché Albert Valenciano expressed his sadness over the Saudi decision on Wednesday.
Valenciano said the embassy had sent a “note verbale” (verbal message) to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 19 requesting for a meeting but had not received a response so far, the Arab News report said.
Top destination for domestic workers
According to a press statement of Migrante-Middle East on Thursday, “Saudi Arabia is the over-all no.1 OFWs top destination and no.4 in the deployment of domestic workers since 2003 to 2010.”
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said the Aquino government must “give more efforts on jobs creation at home rather than banking on sending OFWs abroad as major labor markets are now shrinking.”
Reacting to the decision of the Saudi government to ban Filipino domestic workers, Monterona said, “This is a huge setback to the PH economy that is too dependent on OFWs remittances. It will also give rise to the already high rate of unemployment with about 11.2-M Filipinos unemployed in the Philippines.”
Monterona said the Saudi government’s policy to ‘stop hiring’ of Filipino domestic workers and the Saudization’s Nitaqat scheme is a “double whammy to the Philippines which will have a huge impact to the local economy and will affect about 25,000 to 35,000 prospective domestic workers and 360,000 OFWs employed in Saudi Arabia.”
On Wednesday, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued a statement saying that the Saudi government’s Saudization labor scheme will only have a “very minimal impact on prospective OFWs and those already working in Saudi Arabia.”
“We beg to disagree to the assessment of DOLE Secretary Baldoz on the impact of the Nitaqat system under the Saudization program as we were receiving reports since two weeks ago of jobs terminations, while private companies put a halt on hiring expatriate workers including OFWs here in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona said.
Monterona estimates that the Saudization’s Nitaqat scheme will affect 30% of the 1.2-M which is translated to around 360,000 OFWs employed in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Indonesia said it was prohibiting its citizens from working as domestic servants in Saudi Arabia after the beheading of a maid convicted of murdering her Saudi employer early this month.
Jakarta’s ban will reportedly take effect on August 1 and will continue until the Saudi government agrees to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to protect Indonesian workers’ rights.
More than a million Indonesian workers are said to be in the Kingdom, mostly maids.
Domestic helpers from other countries
Al-Anzi said Saudi recruitment agents intend to recruit domestic workers, including maids, from countries other than Indonesia and the Philippines.
He said “labor exporting countries have evinced keen interest” to send domestic helpers to work for Saudi families. — LBG/VVP, GMA News