Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
Sunday 15 July 2012
As Ramadan draws near, many working women begin the relentless search for housemaids, focusing mainly on illegal workers.
Sawsan, a service representative at a local company, told Arab News: “During the holy month, there are extra demands such as cooking, cleaning and entertaining visitors.
“It is very difficult for me to accomplish all that is required and report to work daily without extra household help.”
She stated that she already has a maid, but has been searching for a second one for three weeks to no avail.
“Most maids I have spoken to usually ask for SR 1,000 to SR 1,200, but now want at least SR 3,000 for the month if cooking is included and SR 2,500 if only cleaning is required.
“This is a very high price as my salary is only SR 4,500.”
Due to the opportunities to earn a fat paycheck, often triple what they usually make, many maids deliberately wait until Ramadan to run away from their sponsors.
Some families, afraid of losing their domestic workers, even resort to locking the maids inside during Ramadan.
Enas, a Saudi doctor at a government hospital, said: “I have experienced problems in the past with runaway maids, especially during Ramadan.
“This is why I began locking all the outside doors and have barred the windows to create a secure environment and keep the maid from running away when I am at work and during the night.” She added the maid is free to move about the home as she pleases, but she cannot go outside.
When asked why she thinks locking the maid in is acceptable, she replied: “I feel I have the right to do what is necessary since I am the sponsor responsible for the housemaid.
“If she runs away I will be the one who has to pay the extra charges and burdened with extra household chores.
“I will also have to wait months before a replacement can be recruited.”
The pool of illegal maids is believed to have dwindled this year due to tighter restrictions on Umrah visas, often used by foreigners to gain access to the Kingdom for employment purposes.
This is in addition to the Kingdom’s ban on the recruitment of domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia implemented last year.
According to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), sponsors of runaway maids can be fined up to SR 10,000 and the maid deported if caught by local authorities.