Sunday, June 11, 2006

Here's a First!

Well, okay, so maybe not THE very first, but the first I can recall seeing this, that the Minister of Labor has
“. . . issued a decision to deny a Saudi woman, accused of abusing her sponsoree, the right to recruit a replacement.”
“It is indeed a commendable thing that the Minister of Labor has started implementing the new disciplines for recruitment of house help.”
“The new regulation protects all the financial and humanitarian aspects, foremost ascertaining a family’s actual need for house help and that a Saudi recruiter will indeed be able to financially afford and HENCE PAY the wages of these house workers.”
[Emphasis added, is mine.]
“Moreover, any case of abuse towards these helpers will be referred to security authorities and to the regions’ emirates, the violators will then be denied the right to recruit any other help and will also be required to pay the travel expenses of their sponsorees.”
This is ALL good. Someone truly does have the welfare of these imported domestic helpers in their sights and is actually willing to put into practice AND enforce new regulations.

There is, of course, the usual backlash, and the author of the article states,
“I would have very much liked for the new regulation to give Saudi sponsors rights.”
You, see, Nawal [I do not know if this is a man or a woman], therein lies what has been the problem up until now. The sponsors had all the rights and the sponsorees had none. That the sponsors have lost the “right” to abuse their sponsorees doesn’t mean that the sponsors no longer have “rights.” Nawal also believes that the new regulation
“should have stipulated strict sanctions against all those who on the other hand commit violations against their sponsor, or harm them, or commit a crime, or run away before the legal contract period lapses.”
Here’s an idea, Nawal – why doesn’t everyone give the new regulation “a good old college try” and see how it works by not abusing the sponsorees. I’m willing to go out on a limb here and bet that if the sponsorees are not abused and are paid their wages [on a timely basis] that they won’t react with committing violations against their sponsors, they won’t want to harm them, and they won’t need to commit crimes [in order to merely exist and survive]. If this works out and everyone seems to be “living happily ever after” probably a whole lot fewer sponsorees are going to want to be running away.

Unfortunately, Nawal doesn’t really seem all to willing to give it that “old college try,” wanting the regulation to provide for “justice to be fully served” by the sponsorees for committing violations and harming sponsors, etc. According to Nawal,
“The problem with these disciplines is that they have failed so far to solve the issue of the runaway house help, who once they reach the country use the first chance they get to run away.”
Probably this does occur, occasionally, but I, for one, would be hard-pressed to believe it happens as frequently as Nawal would like for us to imagine it does.

And, the math you show us to back-up your facts, Nawal, is this “new math?” The math I learned is “old math” and this just doesn’t add up for someone from the “old school” who learned "old math."

You tell us that SR41* million is spent on recruitment “of house labor.” Then you tell us that Saudi families incur losses of “approximately” SR 38 million as a result “of the running away of maids,” but factoring into this is that “citizens are required to pay SR6,000 before a maid arrives.” [Yes, the “word” problems ARE the hardest, aren’t they!?!]

First we divide 41,000,000 by 6,000; this equals 6,833.33 maids imported per year. Now, divide 38,000,000 by 6,000; this equals 6,333.33 maids. Using “new math” this means that of the 6,833.33 maids that come here to work 6,333.33 run away.

This leaves ONLY 500 maids – or sponsorees – who remain with their sponsors – that don’t run away. Nawal, you are right. If there are ONLY 500 maids that are not abused, that are paid, and that are content to stay with their sponsors, this really IS a HUGE problem – certainly a much, much larger problem than I ever imagined!

Gratefully, you’ve clarified a part of the problem for us by telling us that,
“It is a known fact that gangs were formed to recruit the services of these runaway maids for higher salaries, particularly in Ramadan and the holiday seasons.”
Then Nawal says that
“Recruitment of labor has risen by 14 percent even though the new regulation is now enforced.”
If I use Nawal’s “new math” these gangs now have an additional 95.66 maids to lure away from their sponsors. And, this, irrespective of the fact that sponsors have lost the right to abuse the sponsorees. Hmmph. Who knew…

Nawal sums it all up – perfectly – wrapped in a pretty little package and tied with a bow – by finally – finally – answering for us that ever-nagging, age-old question as to whether the chicken or the egg came first – and states,

“As for why some maids run away, that is simple to answer, why not?”

Why not, indeed…

*SR = Saudi Riyals
SR41,000,000 = $10,991,957.10 [U.S. Dollars]
SR38,000,000 = $10,187,667.56 [U.S. Dollars]
SR6,000 = $1,608.57 [U.S. Dollars]


  1. I love the idea that there is something "wrong" with "running away."

    It is as if these women are pets or something. If you forget to lock them in while you are gone (and many are locked in the house - as are many Saudi women and girls, it is worth noting) they might get away. Who knows why a cat or a maid runs away - presumably it is because they just get lost or some neighbor down the street offers them better food (or some food).

    Free people should be free to leave whenever they chose. If my boss spends a couple of thou sending me to training seminars and so forth, and then he starts to hit on me - I am out of there, and he is out his investment in my training, and hopefully more if I can figure out a way to sue his sorry ass for violating my civil and human rights.

    Saudi Arabian women (and men for that matter) need to get up off their fat sorry asses and begin to take care of their own children (likely they wouldn't have so many if they had to care for them, themselves) and cook their own food. If they did, they might learn to appreciate the value of honest work. And the government of Saudi Arabia (esp if it REALLY wants Saudization - about as "effective" as Vietnamization was - to work) needs to institute some credible labor laws. The country could do with a few class action lawsuits (I just BET some clever attorney could find some sort of precendent for something like that in Sharia).

    As it is now, many well-off Saudi women are simply a bunch of Scarlet O'Hara wanna-bes.

  2. Kristine - Do your shopping in the States!!! I don't know about Riyadh - there is nothing even remotely like a Gap or Old Navy in the Eastern Province, that I know of!

    Phasis, you are SOOO right, the take care of your own kids thing... Let's not forget that it wasn't that long ago when NO ONE here had "domestic" help. Yes, it is truly amazing. I was at our little compound grocery some time ago, a young, very attractive, Saudi woman - designer sunglasses, full make-up, yes, covered w/head scarf, not her face, and abeyah, designer shoes peeking out underneath - she had jeans on - can't speak for those - and designer, Gucci handbag - was walking and just putting things into a basket that an OLD - I mean OLD maid was carrying - the basket was overflowing - the contents should have been in a cart, not a basket. The young "Scarlett" had nothing more than her Gucci bag... But for holding the item long enough to remove it from the shelf and place it in the overflowing basket. They checked out, I was actually in front of them, and as we headed out to the parking lot a man - obviously the driver - jumps out of a Mercedes - and opens the back door for the young Saudi - NOT the OLD maid with the basket!!! It was one of those moments I could NOT help but stare... And frankly, it was quite pathetic.

  3. Sorry to come back with this again dear Sabra, but this enquiring mind needs to know:
    You mentionned in an earlier post that there were people living in the streets, that they are domestic servants who have run away. I still cannot get my mind around this...
    Aren't Muttawa Inc. always on the prowl?? And more than happy to grab some errant servant to return to their 'masters/owners' for further abuse? Is this reallt the case, or did I misunderstand?

    On your calculations, I am with you on the old math thing! This guy/gal has probably been a beneficiary of Saudi schools, where the enriched programs are all Wahhab Islamic studies; this would explain the poor mathematical skills.

  4. Something just occured to me: all Saudis are immensely prideful, so what if the powers that be were to appeal to their pride in making the point that one is nerver better served than by oneself! This message endlessly repeated everywhere: mosque, news medias, schools and by the fat cats at the top, would surely spur some action. Also, I would lavish extravagent praise on those who harken at this and demonstrate some initiative.
    Just my two cents!

  5. Sorry last comment was mine!

  6. Something always struck me as a little off when reading some articles in the Saudi Gazette and Arab News. Then it hit me...they remind me of essays written by junior high students. One of the most important things I learned in Freshman Psych. is that correlation does not prove causation. This seems lost on some of the journalists. Also, I just don't understand some of the logic used for some arguments. I don't have time to give examples now because my 1 year old is screaming, butdoes anyone else notice this? I do like Lubna Hussain of Arab News. She's cool! Gotta go console....later.

  7. Well, a bunch of pleading emails and now I've gone and done it. A blog.... (sigh). Not very original, and certainly not good for the belly. But there it is...

    Kinda makes ya wanna go check it out and perhaps offer your services, don't it?

  8. Excellent post, really gets behind the story and takes it to pieces.

    I should have done this earlier, blame pressure of other things, but I have now linked across to here from the Religious Policeman site. 1,000 people a day are still going there, so hopefully some will come across here for an ongoing fix of this strange land.

  9. this whole housemaid issue makes me sick. now that i've seen a different side to it, i find that my sympathy for a lot of them has diminished. i don't agree and would never stand behind abusing housemaids/workers, but i also have seen what these ppl are capable of and it is scary. our housemaid had no reason to do the things she did... other than my standing up to her and not allowing her to kiss and hug me constantly. this is when things started happening in our house. at first, i thought she was lesbian or something... but it was all about manipulation. when i stopped allowing it, she took her wrath out on me. breaking my things, causing harm to animals, tearing up my clothes and YES, doing black magic.

    i found all sorts of things in her bedroom day before yesterday. it's very scary. i called and spoke w/ a lady who handles runaways and abuse of housemaids in this country and, come to find out, we're not the only ones who have experienced such things. it happens all the time and she said they do use black magic. she also said that they lie like crazy. indonesians are the worst when it comes to this - and i thought i was the only one!

    i dont agree w/ ppl using these women/men. i don't agree w/ them being slaves and/or like a pet. no one owns them. they shouldn't be locked up, they should be treated descently... all of the above, we did, as well as so much more.

    i will never have one of these ppl in my home again. never. i just hope that it doesnt take us a long time to get rid of all the memories. it has been a horrible two years!

  10. tooners- I had never thought about that side of the story. It makes sense, in the USA there are cases of dishonest, abusive, theiving househelp. Children have died and been abused at the hands of nannies, and babysitters. I do not agree that people shoulc be locked up, unpaid, or starved though. Are the contracts so binding that the house help can not be sent back to where they came from if they prove to be a threat, or are just bad employees?

  11. Tooners - just eat the money, stand up to your hubby and his family and GET RID OF HER! You are an adult and the woman of the house. If you don't fight this battle and win it, I worry about your future in that household/family and culture.

    I am in deadly earnest. It can only get worse if you don't stick up for yourself.

  12. Amen Phasis.

    Housemaid 0 / Tooners 1

    Hey, better than nothing, Tooners, and Honey, you know I'm behind you... Yeah, Tooners, I got 'chur back!

    Go Tooners!!!


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