The growing women empowerment in Saudi Arabia has expanded to include the plight of foreign nationals, specifically Filipina maids. On Monday, the Middle Eastern nation signed a bilateral agreement with the Philippine government, vowing to protect the rights of its women who work as maids in the oil-rich nation.
A first of its kind for the Saudi government, the agreement guarantees to provide and recognise the grant of benefits to the Filipina domestic helpers, such as a one day-off per week, paid vacation leave and free communication. Another safeguard is that Saudi employers are likewise prohibited to deduct from the salaries of the maids the hiring costs that their bosses incurred.
To recall, Filipino maids only returned in September 2012 to Saudi Arabia after the oil-rich kingdom agreed to set a $400 minimum monthly salary. A dispute ensued in 2011 when the Philippines demanded a minimum wage be set for its maids.
The bilateral agreement also calls for the establishment of a 24-hour hotline for labour dispute resolution in Saudi Arabia.
"We are very confident that cases of abuse will be less after this agreement takes effect because the agreement ensures fair and humane treatment of our HSWs (home service workers)," Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement.
There are about the 670,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, 60,000 of whom are employed as domestic helpers working as babysitters, cleaners, family drivers, cooks and gardeners.
The agreement will also ensure that Saudi employers will not confiscate the passports of Filipina maids that could lead to exploitation as well as prohibit them from returning home.
The bilateral agreement is the first that Saudi Arabia entered into with any labour-exporting market. Apart from the Philippines, other nations that send domestic helpers to the kingdom include Sri Lanka, Kenya and Indonesia.
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