SL women employed as domestic workers in the Middle East: The bigger picture

SL women employed as domestic workers in the Middle East: The bigger picture

SL women employed as domestic workers in the Middle East: The bigger picture

Written by Staff Writer

17 Oct, 2016 | 10:38 pm

The recent demise of a Sri Lankan woman, who died in suspicious circumstances while working as a domestic worker in Kuwait, has reignited the debate over the fate of the thousands of women working in similar conditions in the Middle East.

According to a report filed by a News 1st reporter, in 2014, over 11,000 women left their homes to work as house mains in the Middle East. These statistics however, are not for the whole of Sri Lanka, this is for one particular region, the Kurunegala region.

According to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, nearly 500,000 Sri Lankan women are employed as domestic workers in the Middle East.

The Bureau says that out of the 110,489 women employed abroad, 88,661 are housemaids.But what factors lead to so many women leaving their families and homes?

Women are often driven to take jobs as domestic workers overseas in a desperate attempt to escape extreme poverty and provide for their families.

Sri Lankan workers make a huge contribution to the nation’s economy. Overseas workers are the largest earners of foreign exchange. Last year, according to the Sri Lankan Central Bank, sending back a massive 949 billion rupees to their home country with the majority of this sum coming from Sri Lankan women working as maids.

But behind the figures, what sacrifices are made by these women, and the children and families they leave behind?

With little legal protection, for some women going to the Middle East to work as a maid, has cost them their lives.

Recognising the social and human rights issues surrounding Sri Lankan house maids, the Sri Lankan government, as well as offering a new pension scheme, in June, promised to gradually stop sending maids to the Middle East. The Ministry of Foreign Employment also promised to take action to provide support and protection for the families of migrant workers in the Middle East.

This is  not the first time a country has questioned the human cost of sending women to work in in the Middle East – with India and the Philippines placing a ban on the employment of women as domestic workers in the Middle East.

Latest News