Saudi Arabia: The Scramble for Domestic Help

Ramadan 2012 will begin on or about 19 July 2012.  Many families are already beginning their Ramadan preparations.  Among many Muslim women in the Kingdom, a first priority may be engaging additional domestic help.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world will fast without food or water from sunrise to sunset for a full month.  As a result, the two meals which take place respectively prior to the fast of the day and breaking the fast of the day are important.  

Prior to starting the fast and before the sun rises, Muslims will have “suhoor.”    This is the meal which must sustain them throughout the day while they fast.  “Iftar” is the meal during which the fast of the day is broken.  These meals are special occasions and it is not uncommon for large families and friends to gather and have these meals together.  Ramadan is also after all, a time of celebration of all Muslims.

During the last two weeks of Ramadan schools, businesses, banks, government offices and other organizations all close down until Ramadan and its subsequent celebration, Eid al Fitr, are over.  Families will generally gather at the home of the patriarch (or matriarch if the father is deceased) to spend the remaining two weeks of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr.  It is not uncommon to have 50 or more men, women and children at each suhoor and iftar.  My late husband was one of ten siblings who in turn were all married with children, plus some of the children were already married with children.  We had well over 100 family members together during Ramadan!

     Therefore, it is not surprising that Saudi women and other Muslim women in the Kingdom engage additional domestic help during Ramadan.  Family members who have housemaids will bring their own housemaid to wherever the family gathers to help out. Usually one or more housemaids are hired for a six to eight week period to accommodate the extra preparations for food and taking care of the home.

This is the time of year when an “independent” housemaid can double if not triple her monthly salary because there are usually not enough available housemaids for the demand.

Presently the going monthly rate for domestic help in the Kingdom is between SR 1300 – 1800   (US$345.92 –  478.97).  At Ramadan it is not unusual for a housemaid to receive SR 3000 – 3500  (US$798.29 – 931.33) per month.  The rates will vary depending on the nationality of the housemaid, her experience and whether she has a valid iqama.

Yes, many runaway housemaids or umrah visa overstayers (female) will seek positions as a housemaid.  This is not legal but continues to happen.  Of course anyone found harboring or supporting an illegal will face charges.  Yet Ramadan is a popular time for these women to find additional employment opportunities.

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