Editorial: Right to Work
29 April 2008
 http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=109426&d=29&m=4&y=2008

 
 The Ear of a Saudi Housekeeper was cut off, for reasons unknown, but typical

 

Reports about runaway housemaids, abused housemaids, unpaid housemaids, criminal — even murderous — housemaids surface all too often in our media. Although the overwhelming majority of housemaids do not fall into any of those categories, there is an issue there — and it is firmly linked to the fact that virtually all housemaids in the Kingdom are expatriates.There are here alone, working behind closed doors, invisible to all except the families they work for; and they probably do not know their rights either. That makes them potentially vulnerable. Inevitably there are a few unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the situation.It is no mystery why housemaids are invariably expatriate — 1.5 million of them working in the country, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. The reason is a cultural bias. Conservative elements view the idea of Saudi women working for another family with distaste.The notion that it would be morally wrong for Saudi women to work as housemaids but that it is perfectly fine to employ Filipino or Indonesian women is untenable. Filipino and Indonesian women are no less female than Saudi women. It is the same muddled thinking that, because women do not drive, forces them to employ foreign male drivers but sees it as a sin if those drivers were Saudi men. What is it that, if a woman’s driver is Indian or Pakistani, makes him less of a man, less of a threat, than a Saudi male?

The notion that Saudi women should not work as maids, that their drivers must be foreign, is a purely cultural prescription. It is not an Islamic one. Moreover, it is relatively new. Thirty years ago and more, Saudi women worked as housemaids, Saudi men as drivers, just as Saudis were street cleaners, plumbers, electricians and so forth. There were not the massed ranks of Pakistanis, Filipinos, Indians and others to carry out such menial tasks. Saudis did those them, and did them well. No job was considered beneath Saudi dignity to do.

Despite the new boom from sky-high oil prices, not all Saudis are mega rich. Far from it. Most, despite statistics showing an average of one foreign housemaid per two Saudi families, cannot afford such luxury. Indeed, many Saudis are hard put to make ends meet, especially now with inflation hitting pockets where it hurts. It is hardly surprising then that there are Saudi women who would be glad of a job as a housemaid. They need to earn a living. Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi has come out unequivocally in favor of the right of Saudi women to work as maids if they so wish. That is good news.

It is a matter of justice — the prescription is not an Islamic one, although conservatives try to dress it up as such. It is a very practicable step. Not only would it help Saudi woman who need the money, it would mean that far less money head abroad.

Reports about runaway housemaids, abused housemaids, unpaid housemaids, criminal — even murderous — housemaids surface all too often in our media. Although the overwhelming majority of housemaids do not fall into any of those categories, there is an issue there — and it is firmly linked to the fact that virtually all housemaids in the Kingdom are expatriates.There are here alone, working behind closed doors, invisible to all except the families they work for; and they probably do not know their rights either. That makes them potentially vulnerable. Inevitably there are a few unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the situation.It is no mystery why housemaids are invariably expatriate — 1.5 million of them working in the country, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. The reason is a cultural bias. Conservative elements view the idea of Saudi women working for another family with distaste.The notion that it would be morally wrong for Saudi women to work as housemaids but that it is perfectly fine to employ Filipino or Indonesian women is untenable. Filipino and Indonesian women are no less female than Saudi women. It is the same muddled thinking that, because women do not drive, forces them to employ foreign male drivers but sees it as a sin if those drivers were Saudi men. What is it that, if a woman’s driver is Indian or Pakistani, makes him less of a man, less of a threat, than a Saudi male?The notion that Saudi women should not work as maids, that their drivers must be foreign, is a purely cultural prescription. It is not an Islamic one. Moreover, it is relatively new. Thirty years ago and more, Saudi women worked as housemaids, Saudi men as drivers, just as Saudis were street cleaners, plumbers, electricians and so forth. There were not the massed ranks of Pakistanis, Filipinos, Indians and others to carry out such menial tasks. Saudis did those them, and did them well. No job was considered beneath Saudi dignity to do.

Despite the new boom from sky-high oil prices, not all Saudis are mega rich. Far from it. Most, despite statistics showing an average of one foreign housemaid per two Saudi families, cannot afford such luxury. Indeed, many Saudis are hard put to make ends meet, especially now with inflation hitting pockets where it hurts. It is hardly surprising then that there are Saudi women who would be glad of a job as a housemaid. They need to earn a living. Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi has come out unequivocally in favor of the right of Saudi women to work as maids if they so wish. That is good news.

It is a matter of justice — the prescription is not an Islamic one, although conservatives try to dress it up as such. It is a very practicable step. Not only would it help Saudi woman who need the money, it would mean that far less money head abroad.

 
Editorial: Right to Work
29 April 2008
 
Reports about runaway housemaids, abused housemaids, unpaid housemaids, criminal — even murderous — housemaids surface all too often in our media. Although the overwhelming majority of housemaids do not fall into any of those categories, there is an issue there — and it is firmly linked to the fact that virtually all housemaids in the Kingdom are expatriates.There are here alone, working behind closed doors, invisible to all except the families they work for; and they probably do not know their rights either. That makes them potentially vulnerable. Inevitably there are a few unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the situation.It is no mystery why housemaids are invariably expatriate — 1.5 million of them working in the country, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. The reason is a cultural bias. Conservative elements view the idea of Saudi women working for another family with distaste.The notion that it would be morally wrong for Saudi women to work as housemaids but that it is perfectly fine to employ Filipino or Indonesian women is untenable. Filipino and Indonesian women are no less female than Saudi women. It is the same muddled thinking that, because women do not drive, forces them to employ foreign male drivers but sees it as a sin if those drivers were Saudi men. What is it that, if a woman’s driver is Indian or Pakistani, makes him less of a man, less of a threat, than a Saudi male?

The notion that Saudi women should not work as maids, that their drivers must be foreign, is a purely cultural prescription. It is not an Islamic one. Moreover, it is relatively new. Thirty years ago and more, Saudi women worked as housemaids, Saudi men as drivers, just as Saudis were street cleaners, plumbers, electricians and so forth. There were not the massed ranks of Pakistanis, Filipinos, Indians and others to carry out such menial tasks. Saudis did those them, and did them well. No job was considered beneath Saudi dignity to do.

Despite the new boom from sky-high oil prices, not all Saudis are mega rich. Far from it. Most, despite statistics showing an average of one foreign housemaid per two Saudi families, cannot afford such luxury. Indeed, many Saudis are hard put to make ends meet, especially now with inflation hitting pockets where it hurts. It is hardly surprising then that there are Saudi women who would be glad of a job as a housemaid. They need to earn a living. Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi has come out unequivocally in favor of the right of Saudi women to work as maids if they so wish. That is good news.

It is a matter of justice — the prescription is not an Islamic one, although conservatives try to dress it up as such. It is a very practicable step. Not only would it help Saudi woman who need the money, it would mean that far less money head abroad.

 

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