Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International welcomed the new rules protecting household service workers (HSWs) in Saudi Arabia, saying that it is a victory of the continuous unity and collective action of migrant workers in the country.
The Saudi government has recently approved Household Regulations on Service Workers and Similar Categories, under Resolution No. 310.
Under said resolution, new rules outlining the rights and obligations of employers and household workers include (1) the implementation of a minimum monthly wage of SR 1,500; (2) the requirement of providing accommodation and daily rest of at least nine hours for HSWs; and, (3) the prohibition of “renting out” HSWs to others. Employers are also now required to personally attend or send an official representative to any court case or complaint lodged against them by HSWs.
“This is a positive development, considering the numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, and lack of venues for redress for distressed overses Filipinos workers (OFWs), particularly HSWs in Saudi,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson.
Of the 1.8 million OFWs in Saudi, at least 300,000 are HSWs, mostly Filipina domestic workers.
Migrante International, however, called on the Saudi government to follow Qatar’s lead in replacing the kafala or sponsorship system.
Migrante has since identified the kafala or sponsorship system as one of the main policies that has caused the surge in number of distressed and undocumented migrant workers in Gulf countries. It has long called for the abolition of the kafala system and the improvement of the conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf region.
The kafala is an immigration and labor system imposed by governments of some Gulf countries on migrant workers. Under the kafala, no migrant worker is allowed to enter the country without an “in-country” sponsor, usually the employer. The sponsor is primarily responsible for the workers’ visa and legal status.
Also under the kafala, migrant workers’ residency permits are bound to their sponsors whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions. In effect, the kafala makes migrant workers more vulnerable to abuses and modern-day slavery.
“The kafala system is in direct violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families,” Pillas said. ###