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Philippines suspends recruitment of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia

December 6, 2021 at 2:17 pm

A cook from the Philippines prepares a ‘black crepe’ for a customer from a mobile food van located on the side of a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 [Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

The recruitment of Filipino domestic workers has been suspended in Saudi Arabia, after a decision issued by the Philippines’ Ministry of Labour.

According to Saudi media, recruitment offices in the Kingdom received a letter from the Philippines’ embassy last week, which informed them that new applications for domestic work by Filipino citizens will not be taken and accepted.

While the reason was not clearly revealed to the offices, the Saudi media outlets reported that the embassy said the decision is due to the Filipino Ministry of Labour’s new regulations regarding the contractual relationship between the country’s domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and their foreign employers.

Filipino domestic workers and maids have long been one of the largest demographics of foreign workers in the Kingdom and in the Gulf as a whole, with many families hiring them and making them a desired part of Saudi society.

Over the years, however, there have emerged numerous reports of Saudi employers abusing their Filipino workers. Those cases are part of the broader poor treatment of foreign workers in the Kingdom, who have suffered from abuses by their employers, such as having their passports confiscated, being forbidden basic workers’ rights and, sometimes, being beaten and sexually abused.

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It is unknown whether the country’s new regulations and the decision to suspend deployment of domestic workers is due to such abuse or not. It would not be the first time, however.

In May this year, the Philippines also suspended the deployment of its citizens and workers to Saudi Arabia as a way of protesting against employers and recruiters making them pay for their own Covid-19 tests, quarantine and insurance when arriving into the country.

The Filipino government lifted that suspension a day later, though, after the Saudi government assured that it would pay for the workers’ tests, quarantine and insurance.

According to Saudi media, one of the recruitment office’s staff, Saleh Al-Qahtani, claimed that aside from obstructing and delaying the arrival of Filipino workers who have already been hired and granted visas, the temporary suspension will also directly impact the cost of hiring the workers in the Kingdom.

It is not known how long the Philippines’ suspension order will last, but many expect it to be resolved soon due to the benefit the country receives from remittances. In 2020, its workers in Saudi Arabia alone sent back $1.8 billion in remittances, making it a major source of inflows of foreign exchange.

3.7m domestic workers in Saudi Arabia