Sri Lanka to cut down on maid exports

Updated 03 January 2013

Sri Lanka to cut down on maid exports

Sri Lanka announced yesterday its plans to reduce the deployment of housemaids in the Middle East, including in the Kingdom.
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), which is the statutory body set up to look after the welfare of the country’s overseas workers, aims to reduce women migrating overseas to work as domestic aides by 80 to 90 percent by 2020.
“We do not approve of women going overseas to work as domestic aides. However, we cannot put a complete end to it immediately. Therefore, we have launched a number of programs to upgrade their skills and find better employment opportunities for them in specialized vocations,” SLBFE Chairman Amal Senalankadikara told Arab News yesterday from Colombo.
According to Senalankadikara, Sri Lanka’s migrant labor force has been dominated by female domestic aides (especially to the Middle East), for many years. Although this category of workers have earned billions of rupees as foreign revenue, the chairman pointed out that labor experts believe their migration abroad has caused social problems.
“We have witnessed several broken homes, since mothers work abroad,” said Senalankadikara, adding that this causes several social and cultural problems in society.
In Saudi Arabia, there is a large percentage of housemaids among the island’s 550,000 workers. A small percentage of these female workers face problems such as harassment, nonpayment of their salaries and failure to honor work contracts due to a lack of employer-employee rapport.
The number of runaway maids in the Kingdom is limited to 12 per day. The Sri Lankan Embassy gets around 10 runaway housemaids a day, while its consulate in Jeddah receives around two a day.
According to reports, some of the cases are settled at the missions through negotiations with the respective sponsors, while in other cases the housemaids are repatriated. There are also sporadic incidents of deaths due to murder, suicides and industrial accidents.
In 2011 out of 262,960 Sri Lankan workers who traveled overseas for work, 107,816 were housemaids. These figures slightly decreased in 2012, as out of the 187,908 foreign workers, only 86,220 were employed as domestic aides.
A few years ago housemaids constituted around 80 percent of the total Sri Lankan migrant worker population. However, according to the latest figures this has dropped to less than 40 percent.
Colombo’s efforts to send more skilled workers, especially males is slowly gathering momentum. In 2011, for the first time male employees seeking work abroad outnumbered females, 135,810 to 127,090 respectively. The trend continued in 2012 as the number of male migrant workers reached 95,287 as of October, while the figures for their female counterparts stood at 92,621.
According to Senalankadikara, many initiatives have been proposed for the new year, including training prospective migrant workers in specialized vocations with the intention of increasing the percentage of skilled workers while discouraging unskilled workers from going abroad.
Authorities in their bid to discourage unskilled categories have made National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) level 3, compulsory for Sri Lankans seeking skilled jobs abroad. Moreover, they have introduced tailor-made training courses according to the nature of jobs, countries and the requirements of the employers.
The SLBFE is also planning to improve foreign language proficiency for overseas job seekers. They are in the process of recruiting teachers to teach languages, including foreign professionals.
“Some of the employment avenues the SLBFE is currently looking to promote among Lankan females instead of the housemaid profession are employment in the hospitality, health, and sales industries,” Senalankadikara said. The SLBFE recently signed an agreement with an international company to establish an accredited nurses training school and a hospital to train health sector workers.
Meanwhile, migrant worker remittances at the end of 2012 are expected to surpass an unprecedented $ 6 billion. The SLBFE is aiming for $ 10 billion by 2020, with more emphasis on skilled categories.
In the first eight months of this year, Sri Lanka’s migrant workers remitted $ 3.9 billion, which is an increase of 15.2 percent compared to the same period in 2011. With nearly 1.7 million Sri Lankans working abroad, their total remittances amounted to $ 5.14 billion in 2011. This is equivalent to 8.2 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP, 25 percent of the government’s total revenue and 35 percent of total foreign exchange earnings. Migrant workers constitute 17 percent of the working population.

Saudi women at the wheel: the first 24 hours

Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena getting ready to driver her car as Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving iib Saturday midnight. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 24 June 2018

Saudi women at the wheel: the first 24 hours

  • The General Security has already reported that it will be providing the required provisions for female drivers in Saudi Arabia.
  • Private insurance company Najm, in partnership with the General Department of Traffic, has hired 40 women and trained them to respond to road accidents involving female drivers.

JEDDAH:  Women around the Kingdom have turned the ignition in their cars for the first time on their home soil and hit the roads throughout the country. They have gone on social media to express their joy at this monumental occasion which has officially changed the course of their lives. 

Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena was among the very first women to drive in the Kingdom as soon as the clock struck midnight. 

Women in their cars enthusiastically and wholeheartedly cheered on their fellow female drivers on this memorable night. 

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated, said Almaeena.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urges all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.”

Almaeena highlighted the significance of being a defensive driver. “I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”

On how society is adapting to this major change, Almaeena said: “Tomorrow is the first day, mentally and psychologically it already had that shift. As I mentioned, it’s a paradigm shift. In perception and how they view women, their capabilities — as equal partners. 

“Mentally it’s already there, and physically we will see — as we start — more and more encouragement for both men and women. Even some of the women who weren’t feeling comfortable about driving, it’s going to be encouraging for them, in a live demonstration and evidence that women can do it.” 

As roads around Saudi Arabia have been inhabited by a new breed of drivers, how has this affected the traffic flow in Saudi Arabia?

 “As of 12 a.m., the implementation of the Supreme Court order to enable women to drive and the implementation of traffic regulations to both men and women is officially in effect," said Col. Sami Al-Shwairkh, the official spokesman for General Security in the Kingdom. "The security and traffic status on all roads and areas around the Kingdom have been reported as normal. There have not been any records from our monitoring of any unusual occurrences on the road throughout the Kingdom.” 

To commemorate this occasion, as seen in the pictures circulating on social media, traffic policemen were handing roses to female drivers early on Sunday.

The General Security has already reported that it will be providing the required provisions for female drivers in Saudi Arabia.

Private insurance company Najm, in partnership with the General Department of Traffic, has hired 40 women and trained them to respond to road accidents involving female drivers.

The General Directorate of Traffic has completed all preparations to employ women on the country’s traffic police force.