Authorities have introduced a dress code and a compulsory increase in wages for Sri Lankan female domestic workers heading for Kuwait, with effect from April 1, a senior official said yesterday.
Maids lining up for employment in that oil-rich desert kingdom, will have the option of choosing a frock, jeans or even a saree of their choice while undergoing training at centres operated by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), Foreign Employment and Welfare Secretary Nissanka Wijeratne said.
Cost for the clothing will, however, have to be met by the relevant recruiting agent, he said.
“The objective of this new idea is to maintain some dignity and class among our female workers taking up employment in West Asian households, mainly in Kuwait, where the locals of that country, unlike other Arabs, are very particular about appearance and personal hygiene.
“It has been noted that some domestics go overseas wearing rubber slippers, thereby shedding a poor light on the country’s image and also on themselves. This should change for the betterment of all stakeholders in the industry,” Mr. Wijeratne said.
“At present, a maid is paid something like 60 Kuwaiti Dinars (KD) per month (approx. Rs. 24,300). This has now been revised to a compulsory KD 75 or Rs. 30,375. “If these criteria are not met by the agency, then its contract will not be endorsed by the Lankan mission in Kuwait and the authorities in Colombo. As far as we are concerned, the maid’s monthly earnings should be a minimum KD 75 or else, recruitment will not be approved,” he added.
Earlier, the Kuwait-based Sri Lankan Manpower Welfare Association (SLMWA) had urged the authorities in Colombo to advise the local recruiting agents to set the minimum wage of a domestic worker to KD 75.
SLMWA President Christopher Nelson also welcomed the move by the authorities to introduce the dress code for the domestics, saying it will help prop up the image of the industry amongst other competitors from Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Some Lankan maids arriving in Kuwait are shabbily attired, with the hope of gaining the sympathy of their Arab employer. This should never be the case. At the end, it is counterproductive. If one dresses like a beggar, then the chances are that, you will be treated like one, Mr. Nelson added.
He also said that local agents were overcharging the Kuwait Employer, which had to led to adverse results.
“For example, where two maids are required for a massive household, the employer recruits only one, and this maid is eventually burdened with double the workload, making her life miserable, with many opting to run away,” Mr. Nelson said.
Faizer Mackeen of the Association for Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) said that the problem was not with the agents, but with the middlemen or suppliers who demand exorbitant commissions from the recruiter.
“The wage of a domestic is decided by the recruiting agent, but, when a lot of money has to be given to the middlemen who supply the workforce to the agent and other expenses, the maid’s salary is kept at the minimum,” he said.