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Monitoring Filipino Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia

On October 8, 2012

Last week, Philippine officials reinstated work visas for domestic workers to Saudi Arabia. Filipino domestic workers have not been deployed to Saudi since June 2011, when the nation denied the Philippine's demands for improved working conditions. The demands included new minimum wage standards (up from $200 to $400) and an audit of prospective employers. For example, Saudi employers would be required to provide information regarding workers' housing conditions prior to approval of their employment request. Saudi officials in turn imposed their own ban on Filipino (as well as Indonesian) domestic workers, claiming that the countries' demands were "costly" and "illogical."

The nations announced the resolution of this dispute on October 1st. Stipulations of the new labour agreement include Saudi's commitment to prevent contract substitution and the seizure of worker's passports, as well as to enforce a $400 minimum wage.

In the past, Gulf nations that have conceded to labor-sending demands often failed to actualize their commitments - especially when these assurances are granted following a moratorium. For example, Indonesia and Nepal's various experiments with labor bans resulted in "compromises" that had little significant impact on worker's conditions. Thus, Migrant Rights will continuously monitor domestic workers' conditions in order to determine Saudi's adherence to this agreement as well as the Philippine's own resolve in enforcing employment standards.