The Saudi ban on maids is different from Saudization
I noticed in the past few days that media reports and commentaries have fused two major developments into one thus lending confusion to an already complicated reality.
Household workers are not included in Saudization. The reason why there is an ongoing ban by Saudi Arabia for their deployment is due to an impasse over salary levels. The Philippines is firm in prescribing a minimum salary scale of US$400 for overseas domestic workers. Saudi Arabia would like to see a much lower amount in keeping with market forces.
Saudization is a policy that has been in effect since the 1990s. It is only now, however, that the Ministry of Labor of Saudi Arabia has defined a policy vehicle for its implementation. This vehicle is called NITAQAT (in Arabic, refers to “limits” or “ranges”) which seeks to classify private companies based on the % of Saudi nationals employed. NITAQAT also prescribes which jobs are to be solely reserved for Saudi nationals.
Hence, Saudi Arabia’s move to ban the hiring of Filipino maids is distinct from its more universal Saudization program which affects all foreign workers.
In the search for solutions, it is always important to name the problem correctly. The Saudi ban on Filipino household workers is actually a welcome development to both our government and civil society since this will lessen the number of abused and exploited women. Ironically, some women job applicants may see this differently, since for the longest time, Saudi has been the best option for women desperate to earn abroad. In the case of Saudization, the impact is gender-blind considering that it would be the hiring companies that shall now decide the fate of its foreign workers. If they comply and meet the quotas set by the Saudi Ministry of Labor, then the guest workers under their employ shall be safe from a six-year residence visa cap. If an OFW’s company fails to comply, its commercial license shall not be renewed.
The ban on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to Saudi Arabia is immediate and now in effect. Saudization through Nitaqat is an ongoing process with prescribed deadlines; the soonest of which is September 10 when all companies would be classified either as “green” (excellent compliance), “yellow” (partial compliance) or “red” (no compliance); the next deadline is on November 27 – the date when Saudi companies in the red category (hardly any Saudi national at the workplace) must turn green or else face closure; and on February 2012, companies in the yellow category must turn green otherwise the residence visas or IQAMAs of foreign workers who have reached 6 years would no longer be renewed.
For both realities, our government must present a clear and specific roadmap to alleviate the fears and concerns of our workers in Saudi Arabia and their families back home.