Friday, June 18, 2010

Recruiters mount campaign to hire Thai domestic helpers


RIYADH: A campaign to hire domestic workers from Thailand instead of Indonesia has gathered steam in the wake of the steady increase in recruitment costs for Indonesian manpower.
While slamming the “unreasonable and unjustifiable” hike in recruitment fees for workers from Indonesia, especially commissions for agents, a number of Saudi recruiters have called on the authorities to begin procedures to hire domestic workers from Thailand, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.
“Indonesian agents are engaged in types of blackmailing and have been putting pressure on Saudi recruitment offices by increasing their commission to $800 per visa this month from the $200 that was charged six months ago. We are the victims of the greed of these unscrupulous agents,” said one Saudi recruiter. His views were echoed by many others.
There are about 1.5 million Indonesians currently working in the Kingdom. Recruitment costs for Indonesian workers shot up from SR2,800 to SR7,500 over the past three years.
Abdullah Al-Hamoud, former chairman of the Saudi Committee for Recruitment, noted that the Kingdom is the largest labor market for Indonesian domestic servants and that the steep hike in recruitment costs are not in Jakarta’s interests.
“These domestic workers bring home more than one-third of Indonesia’s foreign remittance annually. Indonesian agents are charging high commissions. They raised it to $700 last month and again to $800 this month. There had been a hike in commission on a monthly basis,” he said, noting that the commission was only $200 six months ago.
According to Al-Hamoud, these agents are engaged in bringing housemaids from remote Indonesian regions and villages to recruitment offices that are mainly based in Jakarta. “They act as middlemen between families of maids and recruitment offices. The Indonesian Ministry of Manpower needs to act swiftly to rein in these unscrupulous and greedy agents, whose practices may prove detrimental to Indonesia’s interests in the long run,” he said.
It is estimated that there more than 1,000 agents working for around 300 recruitment offices in Indonesia.
Jamal Al-Mufawaz is closely involved in the Kingdom’s recruitment industry. He said the authorities need to take steps to start hiring domestic laborers from Thailand instead of Indonesia.
“There are about 20 million Muslims in Thailand; they are mostly concentrated in the southern provinces. Recruiting from Thailand would be economically feasible and help Saudi sponsors save the large amounts of money that is now being taken by Indonesian agents,” he said, adding that the Kingdom used to recruit from Thailand 20 years ago.
Saudi authorities had instructed local recruitment firms two months ago to stop hiring domestic staff from Indonesia in the wake of the huge increase in costs. This came after local recruitment firms came to a deadlock in negotiations with Indonesian recruiters over wages. In the meantime, labor recruiters have been seeking alternative sources of labor from other southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
Abdul Aziz Al-Roqabi, a Saudi diplomat based in Jakarta, recently urged the Saudi authorities to stop issuing labor visas for Indonesia until the country’s recruitment offices comply with agreements signed with their Saudi counterparts. Last month, the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a meeting, which was attended by more than 40 Saudi investors and recruitment office owners. The meeting also called for a halt to importing Indonesian labor.

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