Anyone who lives in or has lived in Saudi Arabia will likely strongly promote the case that it is necessary to have a house maid. I know that I could not have maintained my home properly without the services of a housemaid while I was in the Kingdom. I’m not a lazy person but the larger size of homes, the culture and the weather conditions are all factors which must be taken into consideration when establishing a life in the Kingdom.
For example, in my case, I worked full time. In fact I worked two separate jobs (by my choice). In addition we typically had my step-children staying with house as well as routine visits with family and friends. Since we lived in Riyadh and the majority of family lived outside of Riyadh, they would stay at our home when visiting. This is traditional especially when the son (my husband) is the eldest son in the family. It is viewed as an honor.
Then for those in Riyadh, no matter how well insulated the home may be, trust me, dust and sand manages to find its way into every little nook and crevice. Dusting and mopping must be done daily if not at times more per day. Curtains need to be routinely removed and cleaned too due to accumulation of dust.
When these tasks are taken into consideration over an individual’s time and value plus factoring in the regulated wages of a housemaid, it makes it common sense and practicality to engage a full or part time housemaid.
Some may view a housemaid as a type of domestic slave in Saudi Arabia. Frankly, the role and duties of a housemaid need to be analyzed on an individual basis. Some housemaids are treated very well in the Kingdom whereas others are not. Yet all legal housemaids have agreed prior to their arrival in the Kingdom on the salary they would accept. Most housemaids are also told by the managing agency that they would live their future employer and be expected to work whatever hours set by the employer. They are not given promises of days off, fun or increases in salary. Those are facts.
However, what is also a challenge for the employer, whether a good or bad employer, is that many housemaids now come to the Kingdom with a second plan. Even though a family (Saudi or expatriate) has gone through the official channels and used the service of an agency to acquire a full time housemaid, the new housemaid is simply waiting for the first opportunity to escape.
Few housemaids come to the Kingdom now without some type of network or contacts in place. In fact, there are some “brokers” who are already in Saudi Arabia and encourage women from their home country to apply for a position as a housemaid so that she can enter Saudi Arabia legally. But even before she has arrived, the broker has already promised her alternative employment at double or triple her accepted monthly salary. There is a shortage of housemaids in Saudi Arabia and as a result, there is an active black market full of such brokers.
The broker will provide the housemaid with instructions on how to contact him once she has arrived in Saudi Arabia. He will then make arrangements for her escape and placement with another family. Most family’s engaging a housemaid through a local expatriate broker are aware they are hiring someone else’s housemaid but they are so eager to obtain a housemaid and wish to bypass the established procedures even by paying a higher cost.
Just because a housemaid has run away to join the black market of employment is not, however, a guarantee that she would be treated any better. In some cases, because her salary is increased, a family may expect triple the work from her without any time off. In this case, she basically has allowed herself to be sold into slave labor.
Housemaids will continue to come to the Kingdom but it is my opinion that a housemaid is better off remaining in the legal channels of employment than taking a chance with black market opportunities.
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