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AUGUST 22 2007 ISSUE 233

ANINDA SARDAR Twenty-seven year old Amina (name changed) left her home in Hyderabad, India, to work as a housemaid for a promised salary of RO80 per month (more than Rs8,000), nearly four times of what she would earn in a similar capacity at home. But for the last year and a half that she has been working in Muscat, her sponsor has been paying her RO25 per month after deductions for what he claims to be fees for recruitment, food and lodging. With pressure mounting on their governments, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and now India have begun to introduce legislative measures that seek to

protect the rights and promote the welfare of workers such as Amina. While the Philippines has already raised the minimum salaries and mandated sponsors and recruitment agencies to register each worker with its diplomatic missions in the Gulf, and Indonesia has raised the

Filipino since they doubled the minimum salary of Filipino housemaids. Clients do not want to pay the extra money," said Hassan Abbas Noorani al Lawati, director, Noorani Trading Establishment, a manpower recruitment agency in Hamriya. Most agencies are con-

Plans for new legislation to promote the welfare of housemaids evokes mixed reactions minimum salary, India too is now poised over the introduction of similar rules. However, opinion on whether such measures if introduced and implemented will be beneficial, remains divided, "We have not brought in a single

cerned about dwindling business should such rules be enforced. "Business will be severely affected if such rules come into play. There has already been a drastic drop in the demand for Filipino workers," agreed Marinel Mercado, officer-in-

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charge, Al Miladi Trading and Contracting, a manpower recruitment agency in MQ. However, the manager of another recruitment agency said that these are measures that should have come earlier. "Household workers from these countries have been coming to work in the Gulf for years. Had these rules been imposed earlier, a lot of them would not have suffered exploitation," he said, on condition of anonymity. Asked about how such rules would affect his business, he said, "If the salaries are raised by all countries, then the number of people seeking housemaids will certainly decline, but the people approaching us will be those able to afford a maid and we will probably have less cases of non-payment of


salary and underpayment." He added that he knew of local agencies in these countries that offered maids for half the government-stipulated salaries but having documents that state they were receiving their due. Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy revealed that instructions to put in place a new set of legislation, akin to that introduced by the Philippines, were in the pipeline. "The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is contemplating the introduction of legislation to safeguard household workers from exploitation. If the new rules are introduced, it will be a policy decision by the ministry. A final decision on the matter is expected by the middle of next month," said H E Anil Wadhwa, the Indian ambassador to the sultanate. Jeitendra Tripathi, counsellor and deputy chief of mission, said a minimum salary stipulation by the Indian government has been in place for some time now. "The rule so far has been that workers must be paid a minimum of RO50 per month," he said. The new legislation could raise the minimum wage to RO150 (approx) per month, but an official confirmation of this is yet to materialise. On the subject of exploitation, an embassy source admitted that despite people’s awareness of such instances, on many occasions unscrupulous recruiters have found loopholes to work around. "We have an age restriction - women under 30 are not allowed to work as housemaids abroad. But we’ve found cases where women much younger have been provided passports showing wrong ages," he said. "But we cannot do anything unless someone puts in an official complaint." While the question of stricter rules and regulations evoked varying responses, for people like Amina these changes signal the start of a new era.

Maid Story  

minimum salary, India too is now poised over the introduction of sim- ilar rules. However, opinion on whether such measures if intro- duced...