MANY citizens have failed to recruit domestic workers including housemaids and drivers to help their families. So they started hiring domestic workers who live in the country illegally, instead.
Each year during the month of Ramadan, the demand for domestic helps increases because of the huge family gatherings, and the variety of food and beverages required to be on the fast-breaking table. This becomes a golden opportunity for the illegal workers who live in the Kingdom in violation of the country’s residency system to raise their wages, which go up more than SR3,000 in the month of Ramadan. This is more than the salary earned by some school teachers.
Why do citizens fail at hiring domestic help from abroad? Why do they have to hire the ones that live in the country violating the law?
There are many reasons behind the matter. Many citizens cannot afford to recruit domestic help from abroad because of their low income. In addition, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development gives the citizens who want to hire workers from abroad a hard time by raising the costs of recruitment from two aspects. The citizens used to pay SR2,000 to apply for a visa, but now this fee has been increased to SR2,300.
Secondly, if the applicant was not an employee, or retired with a fixed income, he or she must bring a bank statement showing that their balance is not less than SR25,000 for the first visa, SR60,000 for a second visa, and SR90,000 when they apply for a third.
The ministry placed the requirement of a bank balance for citizens who are interested in getting visas for domestic helps to guarantee that the workers will get paid on time. However, I don’t think it is necessary for the citizens to keep a huge bank balance to ensure timely payment of salaries to their employees.
The ministry must treat citizens with sympathy and good will. Not all citizens are stalling payment of monthly salaries to their domestic workers. The ministry should revoke the condition of bank balance and instead ban those whole violate the rights of workers, even if they were only occasionally delaying the payment of salaries for a couple of months, from obtaining new visas.
Because of these few defaulters, all citizens are forced to pay between SR15,000 and SR20,000 for recruiting a domestic worker from the Philippines, for example.
This is how the Ministry of Labor and Social Development deals with the citizens of this country who seek to recruit domestic help from overseas. This happens at a time labor recruitment companies, which are interested only in their own financial gains, are granted thousands of visas on simple conditions.
In my opinion, renting out the services of workers to the public by recruitment companies that recruit them abroad is tantamount to human trafficking. This activity goes against all norms of human rights, and I do not rule out the possibility of global human rights groups suing the Kingdom because of this.
Lastly, I want ask the minister of labor and social development: Who deserves his help and attention more — the poor citizens or the labor recruitment companies? These recruitment companies are making huge profits renting out the services of the workers to citizens at very high rates.