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Cover me: I’m going in

Cover me: I’m going in

Sri Lanka plans new insurance plan for domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, which has the largest number of Sri Lankan housemaids in the region.

August 24, 2008 9:49 by

The Sri Lankan government is going all out to ensure the security of its domestic aides abroad. The country has called on Saudi insurance companies to submit quotations for mandatory insurance to cover helpers such as maids and drivers in the Kingdom, reports Arab News.
“We have already introduced the scheme in the UAE and Jordan. The Kingdom, which has the largest concentration of Sri Lankan housemaids in the region, will be the third country to launch the program,” said Kingsley Ranawake, chairman of the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment.
The costs of the insurance cover will have to be provided by Saudi sponsors.
“Such an arrangement will ease problems affecting employees, employers and the two governments in case of the eventuality of circumstances such as the repatriation of bodies, disabilities, emergency medical expenses and legal assistance,” said Ranawake.
“The insurance cover would also include return air tickets if a sponsor failed to meet a worker’s costs of return travel,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has also agreed to increase the monthly wage of Sri Lankan maids and drivers to around $173 (SR650) per month starting January.

A system of insurance for housemaids has been under study in Saudi Arabia since last year. Interestingly, the selling point at that time had been the interest of the employers.
“The system is aimed at safeguarding the interests of employers who incur financial losses when their maids do not fulfill contractual obligations or run away,” Saad Al-Baddah, head of the National Committee for Labor Recruitment had told Arab News in May last year.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government’s insurance policy for housemaids in the UAE, which was introduced last week, has reportedly led to a lot of confusion. Sri Lankan authorities signed an agreement with the Oman Insurance Company for the insurance cover. Recruitment agencies say that sponsors have not yet been informed about the policy. According to reports, agents were worried that instead of the sponsor footing the bill, they would have to shell out the Dh200 annual premium for the compulsory insurance. The agencies also demanded that labor contracts, issued earlier this month, be exempted from the new policy.

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka announced that it plans to reduce the number of maids it sends to work in the Gulf, because of increasing complaints of abuse. More than 700,000 Sri Lankan maids are employed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia was also recently hauled up by Human Rights Watch for not doing enough to curb serious abuse faced by domestic staff in the country. In Saudi Arabia, more than 80 percent of the 550,000 Sri Lankan workers are housemaids, whose earnings make up a large portion of foreign remittances to the island. The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment said it had received more than 3,400 complaints from female workers this year.

According to reports, at least 10 percent of the maids escape from their original employers for reasons including non-payment of wage, physical abuse and sexual harassment.

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