Recruits from Ethiopia are being considered to fill the gap that will be left by Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.
According to Yahya Hassan Al-Maqbool, head of the recruitment committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ethiopian recruitment offices should be able to provide the manpower following the kingdom’s decision to ban domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia.
“This will expedite the recruitment of Ethiopian housemaids and reduce the procedure’s duration which is three months at present,” Al-Maqbool said in a statement.
Saudi newspapers earlier quoted a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor saying Saudi employment agencies would recruit domestic workers including maids from countries other than the Philippines and Indonesia.
According to the reports, the decision is a result of a breakdown in negotiations between Manila and Riyadh regarding labor issues.
Among others, Manila had wanted a minimum monthly wage of $400 for Filipino domestics, a location map from prospective Saudi employers of their residence and the opening of a bank account by the employer for the hired maids to ensure that their salary would be paid.
With this suggestion of Al-Maqbool to tap Ethiopian manpower, labor experts say the Philippine government can abandon any hope of sending domestic helpers to Saudi.
Al-Maqbool said that at present, Ethiopian recruitment officers were only allowed to deal with two Saudi offices. “The Ethiopian offices should be allowed to deal with many offices in the Kingdom,” he said.
Each Saudi recruitment office was processing 60 visas from Ethiopia every month, he said. “We are requesting to increase the number of visas given to each Saudi office to 500 monthly,” Al-Maqbool said.
He also called for more weekly flights between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia to “expedite the recruitment of housemaids from Ethiopia.”
Al-Maqbool described the manpower recruited from Ethiopia so far as good, but said the final judgment would take time to make.
He expressed his belief that the recruitment of 25,000 housemaids from Ethiopia during the coming few months was not difficult or impossible if there was cooperation from the Ethiopian side.
“The Ethiopian manpower has proved that they are a successful substitute for manpower from Southeast Asia, who were causing a lot of problems,” he said.
There are 170 offices in Ethiopia and 150 offices in Kenya that are licensed to export manpower to Saudi Arabia.
According to press reports, the kingdom will open training institutes in the two African countries for the possible recruits.
The demand for housemaids in the kingdom is said to have gone with Ramadan only two weeks away.
Many Saudi families are now even seeking the help of illegal housemaids who demand a monthly payment of 2,000 Saudi rials.