Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Keheliya Rambukwella says housemaids should not be given the job of a nanny, as they are not trained to care for babies.
Rambukwella also says that the Sri Lankan government is looking into the possibilities of employment prospects in countries such as Norway, Poland, Italy and even Japan, where a more systematic mode of remuneration is possible.
"Some housemaids in the Gulf are forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day and don't get a day off. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the government are in the process of drafting proposals to change this," the minister said.
A media officer at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) reveals that there are 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka in the Middle East and non-Middle East (Cyprus, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong). In 2007, 52.77 per cent women went as migrant workers. Housemaids, nannies and babysitters fall into the category of the Domestic Sector and last year, 102,176 women went abroad to work in this sector. Of the housemaids who went, 18,446 were between the age of 25 and 29 years and 18,426 were between 35 and 39 years. On an average their salary is 45 Kuwaiti Dinars (US$1=KWD 0.27). Most of these women have little education and are housewives so they do not earn if they remain in Sri Lanka.
SLBFE says, there are 1.4 million Sri Lankan workers in the Gulf, 60 per cent are housemaids and 65 per cent females. "Of these, 15 per cent complain of physical and sexual harassment while 18 per cent complain of non-payment of agreed wages. Twenty per cent complain of lack of communication between employer and employee," said the SLBFE media officer."
In 2007, we received 1,273 complaints of sexual and physical harassment. Our policy is to contact the Embassy and send for a report to the sponsor's house. We also contact the local agent. If they don't respond, we cancel the licence of the local agent," the officer said.
Talking about the efforts of the SLBFE, the media officer said, "We give compensation in the case of death or permanent disability during the period of registration. We pay LKR 300,000 (US$1=LKR 110.05) for permanent disability and LKR 500,000 in case of death. Death can be due to homicide, accident or, as in most cases, due to natural causes. We have also built a house in Polonnaruwa, in the North Central part of Sri Lanka, for a housemaid whose legs were cut off."
(The New Nation