Maid Crisis Hits Homes In The UAE

March 6, 2015 News

We are workers, not slavesDomestic help shortage hits families dependent on cheap foreign labour

With Indonesia joining the list of countries that have barred their women from working as housemaids in the UAE, finding domestic help has become a major challenge in the country.

Residents said the shortage of housmaids and nannies will throw thousands of homes into domestic chaos.

“I cannot survive even a day without domestic help,” said Emirati mom Umm Khalid. The 37-year-old Abu Dhabi-based government employee has four children ages two, four, five and a half and seven.

Umm Khalid said she was planning to hire a second house help from Indonesia, but is now forced to look for other options. “We prefer housemaids from Indonesia as they are also Muslims and there are minimal cultural and religious differences,” she said.

Many Arab families echoed similar sentiments saying Indon-esians are their preferred choice for domestic help.

Diminishing supply

Housemaids from the Phil-ippines, Nepal and India have also been diminishing in the last few years, further restricting housemaid recruitment.

The Philippines stopped sending housemaids from June last year, and Nepal imposed a ban on their women coming to the Middle East almost a decade ago. Most Indian housemaids require Emigration Clearance (as they have not passed Grade 10) and their job contracts have to be verified by immigration authorities and attested by the Indian embassy. Also, India does not allow women younger than 30 to work as housemaids abroad.

Many families said getting a suitable housemaid in the UAE is always a matter of luck, and the new restrictive laws are only making it harder.

“Getting a housemaid is like going on a blind date. You may or may not click with the person,” said French graphic artist Aimee Alexis who lives in Abu Dhabi with her family.

“I recruited two maids from the Philippines in the last four years, but they didn’t live up to my expectations. The first would fall sick every few days while the second one would routinely misbehave with my kids,” she said. Alexis hired a housemaid from Ethiopia two months ago after the Philippines stopped recruitment to the UAE. “I am just hoping I will be third time lucky,” she said.

Since recruiting housemaids entails a lot of expenditure, families are often reluctant to look for a replacement if the exisiting domestic help is not performing satisfactorily.

A case in point is that of Indian social media manager M.R. who hired a maid from his native state Kerala at the time of his wife’s delivery around three months back. “It was a mistake because she doesn’t look after the baby and instead pesters us to buy her a gold chain,” he said.

M.R. said he has no choice but to retain the maid’s services and put up with her tantrums as he has spent almost Dh15,000 to bring her to the UAE.

However, housemaid recruiting agencies maintain the new restrictions will benefit housemaids and families in the long run.

“When housemaids will become scarce, employers will be encouraged to treat them well,” said Rudy Holean, Client Relationship Manager at Maid

“Many women look at the UAE as a lucrative place to work. If they are treated well and paid well, they will be more efficient and work diligently for the families that hire them,” she said.