A senior official from the Sri Lankan government said that it needs higher wages and adequate security for domestic workers seeking employment in Saudi Arabia.
Mangala Randeniy, deputy-general manager of the SLFBE, told Arab News from Colombo that his country is no longer interested in sending more housemaids to West Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia, unless those countries come out with an attractive salary package which commensurates with their hard work, Arab News reported.
Randeniya said that the Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry would reconsider the request if Saudi Arabia was ready to pay higher salaries and willing to give security assurances to domestic workers.
“It is necessary for them to enter into a bilateral agreement before sending more housemaids,” Randeniya said, adding that such an agreement has been sent to the Kingdom’s Labor Ministry for approval.
The official stressed that such an agreement is essential in light of increased incidents of harassment, nonpayment of salaries, killing of maids by their employers, suicides and industrial accidents reported during recent years.
“We do not approve of women going overseas to work as domestic workers, but we cannot put an end to it in one go. Therefore, we have launched several programs to upgrade their skills and find better employment opportunities for them in specialized vocations.”
Sri Lanka aims to reduce the number of women going overseas to work as domestic aides by 80 to 90 percent by the year 2020. Currently, around 300,000 Lankans are working in Saudi Arabia.
Randeniya pointed out that conditions include minimum wage, working hours and the type of training to be given back home.
SLBFE is the statutory body that coordinates with foreign countries for the overseas employment of its workers.
Randeniya said that the minimum age limit for housemaids traveling to the Kingdom would be 25 years of age and that their minimum monthly wage will be set at SR 900.
He explained that housemaids who come for foreign employment would be given a 21-day residential training course before being posted to overseas stations.
The profession would be stated as “domestic house-keeping assistant” inside the passport instead of “housemaid.”
Maids should be allowed at least eight hours of sleep a day, he said. “We will also demand higher pay.”
“We want to offer more skilled and quality manpower to the Kingdom and other regional job markets,” he added.
He said that the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment would assist companies in host countries to train other workers according to their needs. “We have well-established training centers to update prospective foreign workers with skills,” he said, adding that they could supply trainers to help employers in their workplaces.
“An innovative mechanism is currently being developed in Sri Lanka to implement job-specific, country-specific and company-specific training programs for citizens who seek opportunities abroad,” he said.