To begin with, the complaint that “many people pay them extortionate salaries ranging from SR 1,100 to SR 1,500, instead of the standard SR 600 to SR 800 paid to legal maids working legally. [Does anyone at the Arab News bother to do any proofing and editing? “Legal maids working legally.” Can you have “illegal maids working legally?” Or “legal maids working illegally?” I digress.] SR 1,100 to SR 1,500 are hardly “extortionate” salaries. In U.S. dollars that is $294.90 to $402.14. The poor [literally] “legal maids working legally” at SR 600 to SR 800 are paid $160.85 to $214.47 in U.S. dollars for their services. Just assume for the benefit of explanation that these maids – the “legal ones” working “legally” perform services for what is, in the United States, an average, customary workweek – it isn’t like that here, of course – but just assume… That means that the average “legal maid working legally” earns somewhere between .92 cents and $1.23 AN HOUR! That’s it. But if she can find illegal work she can make the big bucks, earning between $1.70 and $2.32 and hour. I can assure you that this isn’t how it works here and but for the very and extremely rare case none of these maids would be expected to work only a five-day, forty-hour “customary work week.”
Poor Fahd Amash’s wife. She has five children and is a teacher. He complains that although their “circumstance requires…more than one maid” the authorities only allow them one. Good grief. How can this family expect to manage under such impossible conditions? [Don’t even consider feeling sorry for this family; but DO feel sorry for the one maid they had, before she ran away. She, with no doubt, had very, very good reason for running away!] Novel idea here, Fahd - just marry another wife to help out. You’re allowed four, after all. But alas, Fahd went the illegal route and hired a maid at SR 1,500 a month whom wanted ONE DAY off every TEN DAYS!!! Three days a month off?!? Unheard of! [Which, assuming the maid works only eight hours a day brings her hourly wage to approximately $1.86.]
Feel less sorry for Houaida Hassan, a Saudi “housewife,” because she had to resort to employing an illegal maid “as her friends do.” Nothing like having to keep up with the Joneses! But wait. She’s a “housewife.” And she had to “resort” to employing a maid. Merriam Webster's on-line dictionary defines “housewife” as “a married woman in charge of household.” And this islamic-world.net site breaks the definition of a housewife down even further:
A housewife is a woman, though there are some househusbands, who works at home caring for her children, maintaining her home and cooking for the family. A housewife works very hard every day and gets few vacations, holidays or weekends off as men and women who work outside the home get. And a housewife works many more hours each day than those who work outside the home.
There are so many duties performed by housewives that it's hard to list them all. Some of them are taking care of children, doing laundry, cleaning floors, walls, windows and kitchens and bathrooms, making beds, ironing clothes, making breakfast and lunch, cooking dinner and washing and drying dishes. Perhaps the most important of all of these important tasks is the care of children.
The mother who works in the home devotes a large part of her day caring for the health and safety of her children. She keeps the children clean and fed and tells them when they are bad and when they are good. This teaches children a most important lesson: the difference between right and wrong which they will use for the rest of their lives. Housewives do the most important work of any men or women though they rarely receive the recognition they deserve because others do what may seem more interesting.So by this “Islamic” definition, why would Houaida possibly need a maid?!? Lest I get accused of being a “pot calling the kettle black,” I will admit that I have [another] “houseboy.” My [new] houseboy does assist me with housework for a few hours in the morning four days a week – he cleans my bathrooms, washes the floors, keeps the “Kids” nose prints off the windows, dusts and vacuums. I do the rest. I do all of the cooking. I do my own dishes. I make the bed. I pick up the toys. I do the grocery shopping and errands. I do all the laundry. Etc., etc., etc. I do not have a maid, per se. I pay my “houseboy” SR 20 per hour, which is $5.36 in U.S. currency. [Is that minimum wage? I have no clue what minimum wage in the States is at this point.] If, in ninety days, the new “houseboy” is still with me – provided he can work to my exacting standards, then I will give him a raise to SR 25 an hour, or $6.70. For a young man from Bangladesh, this IS the big bucks! Houaida is willing to pay SR 900 [U.S. $241.28] per month and give the poor maid ONE day off every TEN DAYS! Again, assuming a typical work week of forty hours, working twenty-seven days in a thirty-day month, this maid will earn $1.11 an hour!!! Absolutely astounding, isn’t it, that just one day later the maid complained about the work and refused to stay. Hmmph. Wonder why.
Houaida goes through the same broker to get another “illegal maid” and again, a day later, the maid complains about the work and doesn’t want to stay. [Two maids in just two days. Gotta be more to this story, something about the "work" maybe? Or perhaps the hours?] Poor, poor housewife Houaida. In the end “she decided to do without the maid instead of being taken advantage of.” Oh, for sure, someone was “taken advantage of” in this situation – and it WASN’T Houaida, you can bet on that!
Feel worse for Majed Ali, though, who acquired a maid for his sick mother during Ramadan. Here’s his story:
“The maid was to be paid a salary of SR 1,500 and the broker asked for a SR150 commission,” said Majed. “I accepted all the broker’s conditions and took the maid to my mother. On the second day of Ramadan my mother called me to come quickly and when I got to her house, I found the maid screaming and yelling. She said she didn’t want to work and wanted to be let go,” he said. “I told her to give me the SR150 that I paid the broker and that I would let her go. She screamed and threatened my mother. She wanted SR200 or she said she would cast a spell on my mother that would make her sick and bedridden for the rest of her life,” he said, adding that his mother was frightened and asked him to give the woman what she wanted and let her go."Wait, wasn’t your mother already “sick” when you hired the maid? Was she just sick with the flu and she would recover in the short-term? Or was she one of those frail, sickly old women, bed-ridden to begin with and needing full-time care for the long-term? We are to believe that you and your mother believed the maid that she could “cast a spell” which would make your mother “sick and bedridden for the rest of her life?” What color is the sky in your world, Majed? And how is Peter Pan these days? Do you, in all honesty, really believe that maids have the ability to “cast spells” like this? Gimme a break.
An expatriate who spoke to the paper has the inside scoop: “Brokers manipulate people by planning with the maids to leave work after working for a day or two. “People then end up going back to the broker to get another maid and pay additional commission. The broker in turn gives the maid a percent of profit,” he said. No name given for this expatriate, however, so who knows if this source can be relied upon? After all, there have been “rare” instances reported on various internet sites where “sources” are thoroughly debunked after telling newspaper journalists “untruths.”
Saving the best for last, we have the head of the Passport Department in Makkah, Ayed ibn Taghalib Al-Luqmani, stating: “We have recently arrested a large number of illegal maids and the people who shelter them. It’s a wonder that people recruit them and trust them with their children in spite of everything that we know about them. Many of them have infectious diseases and are known to be thieves.” [See my previous post about the hallucinogenic effect of camel milk. It goes without saying, in my opinion, that Mr. Al-Lugmani has consumed far too much of the magic milk when he rants that “Many of them have infectious diseases and are known to be thieves.” WTF?!? How in the world can this man possibly be expected to be taken seriously with a statement such as that?!? Just a bit of explanation here, to qualify this statement, would be helpful. I happen to know for a fact through first-hand experience that one does not get a Visa to even enter this country without being tested for a myriad of diseases and illnesses! We not only gave blood and urine to get Visa’s, but stool samples as well. So how can these women, or “many of them” get their Visa’s to come to this country if they are inflicted with “infectious diseases?” Perhaps the “infectious diseases” to which Mr. Al-Lugmani is referring might be those of a venereal kind? Hmmm. Let’s think about this for just a second or two. Let me go out on a limb here and offer my hypothesis: If the men in this part of the world could keep their damn sirwals pulled up and quit humping anything that moves – and this includes their friends and buddies, their several wives, their misyar wives, their cousins and their animals – perhaps the epidemic of “infectious diseases” could be kept at bay. ‘Nuff said.]