Maids too prefer to work in big towns
Security forces intercepted a group of people known for smuggling maids from their sponsors’ homes and apprehended them while they were en route to Riyadh from the city of Tabuk.
The rising demand for maids ahead of Ramadan each year prompts domestic workers to seek bigger gains in urban households rather than their sponsors based in small towns leading to a black market in maids.
Statistics show that there are approximately 1 million maids in Saudi homes. However, about 2 percent of them escape to get higher salaries in other homes with the help of human trafficking gangs.
For most nationalities, salaries of housemaids start at less than SR1,000 ($375) a month. In addition to such low salaries, many housemaids complain of physical exhaustion and psychological violence and abuse. Due to such complaints, many governments have intervened on their behalf through the embassies in Saudi Arabia to improve work environments and safeguard rights of housemaids, financially and morally, as well as ensure that they are subject to fair working hours, breaks, and have the facility to communicate with their families or embassies.
There is currently no mechanism in place to ensure the implementation of the agreements signed by Saudi Arabia and the home countries of these domestic workers, despite the fact that the need for an attractive salary tops the list of the reasons that prompt these workers to leave their homes.
Saudi work regulations also lack preventive measures for Saudi families such as withholding or hiding the passports of their housemaids as a way to ensure these workers do not steal or escape without warning. Thus, those housemaids that escape lose their passports, and turn to their embassies to obtain a new one. Informing the authorities about the escape of a housemaid in time is critical to ensure that the family is able to get an alternative visa.
It is worth mentioning that there are harboring and hiring entities that help guarantee sponsorship and employment for housemaids who have escaped, as well as those who help transfer money to their families in return for a portion of their monthly income.
Saudi families spend more than 20 billion riyals yearly on the salaries and the cost of food and travel for their housemaids, and are subject to ongoing concerns regarding potential crimes committed by these housemaids against their children and employers. During Ramadan, the number of complaints received by the security agencies typically increases, especially in small towns where many housemaids escape to the larger cities to work for families in need of domestic workers and who are less likely to consider the associated risks.