Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Saudi Women Work as Maids

Women upset as Saudis start work as maids
Web posted at: 8/4/2009 2:30:13
Source ::: The Peninsula

DOHA: Qatari women have reacted with disappointment at media reports saying that the first batch of 30 Saudi housemaids has begun work, entering an occupation which has been the domain of mostly Asian women in the oil-rich Gulf state.

According to newspaper reports, all the 30 Saudi women who have been roped in as domestic help, are aged between 20 and 45 years and none of them has a primary school certificate.

They earn salaries up to 1,500 riyals which is roughly equivalent to $400 per month, slightly more than what their Asian counterparts get. At least one newspaper quoted an official from a manpower agency saying that the 30 women have been selected after a series of interviews and intense training. And another 100 women have applied and are awaiting interviews, said another Saudi newspaper.

The manpower agency official said the demand in Saudi Arabia for local women to work as maids is going up sharply because of widespread fear in local communities that foreign women practice magic.

The Saudi Labor Ministry moved two years ago to allow local women to work as housemaids and they were to be officially known as ‘Saudi home arrangers’.

Reacting to the reports, Moza Al Malki, a prominent Qatari psychologist, told this newspaper yesterday: “It breaks my heart to know that Saudi women are venturing out to get involved in such a pursuit.”

“Imagine that this is happening at a time the GCC countries are witnessing immense economic prosperity and among these countries Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserves.”

In principle, it is okay if a woman has to do a job as long as it is decent work and not in violation of Islamic tenets, she said.

“But in the end it is the job of a maid… The women will be exposed to all kinds of humiliation.” Al Malki said she hoped that the trend would be restricted to Saudi Arabia and not spill over to other GCC countries. Another Qatari woman who did not want to be identified said the development should be treated as an exception and she did not expect the trend to spill over to other GCC states.

August 4, 2009 - Posted by | Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues


  1. This is so interesting! Of course it is sad that doing housework for someone else is seen as degrading, but just this first step of training and “allowing” Saudi women to do domestic work is good. What concerns me is how they will be treated by their employers. They might need some training too!

    When we lived in Ghana we had a Ghanaian woman doing our housework and when we left we tried to help her find a new job. She adamantly, absolutely did not want to work for African employers, local or foreign, because they would treat her like a slave (she said) and she only wanted to work for western foreigners, expats, who had always treated her as a human being.

    Good post!

    Miss Footloose

    Comment by Miss Footloose | August 4, 2009 | Reply

  2. Being a maid is scarcely an easy or agreeable vocation…and it is not difficult to sympathise with those entering the profession for the first time, and are wholly unaccustomed to the work. However there is nothing in the article to suggest that these women are unwillingly being thrust into it. Though obviously not very lucrative, it is an economic opportunity for them.
    The attitude of this Moza Al- Maliki is pretty shallow and it is unbecoming for statements such as those quoted above to issue from the mouth of an apparently prominent phsycologist, whom one would expect to be a little more sensitive and to know better. They suggest taht its ok for expat women from impoverished backgrounds to have a hard time, but it’s really heart-rendering for our fellow Arab womenfolk to have to engage in such pursuits.
    This may come out as harsh, but such an attitude is unquestionably ethnocentric and highly insular. It also implies that certain ethnic groups or races are better suited to certain occupations. Moreover, why need these women be “exposed to all kinds of humiliation”, appropriate legal safeguards, and strict accountability for offenders should be there to protect ALL women. I understand Qatar has begun to take steps in this direction. Apparantly, Saudi is also bringing about formal reforms, though how substantive these will really be, I don’t know.

    This is not just about the treatment of expats and being nicer to outsiders, but any country is doing itself a huge favour with solid positive long term gains, by instituting reform. By doing so it is appealing to and fostering a stronger sense of civic duty and responsibility, not to mention humanity, among its citizens, and is cultivating a stronder national conscience.

    Comment by olivegreen | August 4, 2009 | Reply

    • I have to say that Saudi often publishes good intentions as you’ve said above but it is rare that they are ever more than just that. The plight of maids is appalling, the stories of abuse endless. I know of three that ran away, ‘escaped’ in the words of her Saudi sponsor, just this week.

      Although I am not naive enough to think that these problems don’t exist in Qatar, it is always refreshing to visit and see evidence of steps being made in the right direction.

      Comment by Sprinkle | August 5, 2009 | Reply

      • I hear the same stories, Sprinkle, and except for the sexual harassment by the males in the house, most of the horror stories involve women. I have to wonder what makes them so angry, so desperate, that they lose self control and beat, degrade, even torture another woman. Many many women immediately cut the hair of their maids, force them into hijab, to protect their sons – and possibly husbands – from lusting after them. There are many stories of women stealing from their maids! Non-payment of salary is almost par for the course, and late payment or not-what-was-contracted payment following close on the heels.

        I don’t know if labor law has changed, but when I was in Qatar the last time, all workers got one day a week off, with the specific exception of maids. Who else would take care of the children, serving the meals, ironing the dishdashas, serving tea, cleaning the house? Most work from dawn until late late at night, and then get up and start all over again.

        Comment by intlxpatr | August 6, 2009

  3. Thank you, Miss Footloose and Olivegreen, thank both of you for your cogent and relevant and thoughtful comments.

    I think being a housemaid CAN be OK, it depends on how much control you have over your situation. Do you have regular hours and regular expectations? Do you have a day off you can count on? Are you off duty at a regular time? Can you count on uninterrupted privacy on your off-time if you are living in? Do you get paid regularly, on time and the correct amount?

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 4, 2009 | Reply

  4. In the old days before the discovery of Oil and the spread of wealth some Kuwaiti women used to work as domestic helpers (maids) all day long in the rich folks home for a pot full of rice and some Edam (meat or fish or stew)as payment for her labor for the day ,that’s all .God has rewarded their suffering with a Good life and Modern homes with appliances and maids and helpers .

    Do you know that after the collapse of the communist block the poor East Europeans worked as maids or nannies in many countries but not allowed in the Gulf states because they were blond and gulf women were afraid they will steal their husbands !!!!!

    Comment by daggero | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  5. Daggero, i always learn such interesting things from you. I didn’t know about Kuwait maids, but it makes sense to me.

    When I lived in Tunisia, in Tunis, the maids were always poor relations from the country. Poor was really poor – like in skinny and sometimes starving. They were so happy to be taken care of in the city, they didn’t work too hard, they kept the house clean, the courtyards swept and washed, made tea, fixed meals, but they were treated respectfully – they were part of the family. It was a good arrangement.

    I often wonder what I would do if my life suddenly imploded in some way and I had to find skills to live by – political strategist? fund raiser? Case worker? I am betting there would not be a lot of need for those skills. Most likely, I would be sewing, maybe cooking, maybe cleaning. . .

    Many of the maids talk to me. Some are so blessed, with truly kind employers, who even teach them more skills and send help to their families far away. Some employers encourage their maids to become all they can be.

    Then there are others – can you imagine stealing from your maid?

    Cleaning/housekeeping is honest work. It deserves respect.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  6. Intlxpatr ;

    Please delete comment number 6 and block the writer

    Comment by daggero | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  7. I have no idea what just happened, Daggero, but I trust you and that comment(er) is GONE. Thank you.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  8. Intlxpatr ;

    thanks , the comment was swearing

    Comment by daggero | August 20, 2009 | Reply

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