The plight of domestic workers employed in the Middle East is worse than the frustrated farmers who curse their crop being devastated by fungi.
Both the domestic worker and the farmer give hope to their loved ones in terms of bringing home the income. None of these jobs is easy and demands excessive hours of manual work.
When the times are worst the farmer might return home as a dejected individual, but there have been occasions when the domestic worker has even committed suicide; thus denying the loved ones the opportunity to have even a simple funeral.
The latter has actually happened. We have read enough reports about domestic workers fleeing the houses they served in because they were harassed or ill treated. On most occasions the Sri Lankan Embassies in those countries weren’t very helpful or preferred to turn a blind eye to these incidents or complaints.
It’s a matter of concern because we’re getting to read about or hear of a large number of domestic workers abroad returning to the island because of adverse working conditions. For the record as many as 172,642 workers migrated to the Middle East in search of employment in 2019and as many as 248 were repatriated to
"And to add to their woes these workers are sent abroad sans guaranteed rights, absence of labour rights and laws and without penning proper agreements. Given the cultural backgrounds these women come from and the nature embed into them that women must grin and bear"
With regard to the domestic workers going in search of greener pastures we are much concerned about those who seek employment as housemaids. These women folk often complain of excessive work. There was one story where we read about a woman worker having to cook for 19 people on a daily basis. Some stories we hear of can be labelled as ‘slavery’.
The true label that fits these housemaids is ‘breadwinner’. Most women migrate in search of such jobs because the husband back at home is unemployed or isn’t physically fit to work. These women then have to slog abroad and the illtreatment there adds to the already traumatised minds of these workers. Speaking on the lines of all the workers being breadwinners, in 2018 alone the income they brough to the country was valued at 7 billion US $, which amounts to 7.9% of the GDP.
Women’s Rights Activist Shreen Abdul Saroor has said that a key factor for these workers to get a raw deal abroad is due to ‘the absence of bilateral agreements between Sri Lanka and the counties which employ these migrant workers.
And to add to their woes these workers are sent abroad sans guaranteed rights, absence of labour rights and laws and without penning proper agreements. Given the cultural backgrounds these women come from and the nature embed into them that women must grin and bear most of these female workers prefer to remain silent after much suffering; especially in the event of being sexually abused. However what’s a matter of concern is that complaints have been made to places of authority like the Foreign Employment Bureau. But writing comprehensively about the remedies suggested or solutions given by such institutes isn’t worth the ink they’d be inked in.
We have even read of one of the solutions given by the authorities which is to ‘escape the home if your are abused or during an emergency’.
Most of these workers who migrate to Middle Eastern countries aren’t aware that the laws in those countries don’t empower them to bargain for better wages. Sri Lankan workers who migrate abroad have one clue that’ll help them foresee whether their stay overseas would be enjoyable or not. That clue can be obtained by studying how strong labour laws in these countries are.