Outflow of women migrants on rise despite workplace abuse

Arafat Ara | Published: June 23, 2018 10:05:36 | Updated: June 26, 2018 10:18:20


The number of women workers leaving for Saudi Arabia for jobs has increased in recent months despite the fact that workplace abuse has forced many to return home.

A total of 39,578 women migrants went to the oil-rich country with jobs in the first five months of this year.

During the same period of 2017, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) hired 37,856 domestic helps from the country, the official data showed.

The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) data also revealed that KSA recruited 9,476 women in May and 8,492 in April this year.

On the other hand, over 1000 female returned home in the last six months because of workplace abuse and torture.

Forty-three of them came back on June18 and 19.

Still, 120 women are staying at safe home of Bangladesh embassy in Saudi Arabia and 40 others at the Saudi immigration camp, said the returnees.

They said about 80 per cent of the returnees were forced to come back home within six months of their job period.

They had faced various forms of exploitations such as denial of wages and sexual and physical assaults in the workplaces, they said.

Contacted, an official of the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry said they have no plan to reduce the number of domestic helps going to Saudi Arabia.

But the ministry has taken an initiative to tighten the selection process for women workers to help check workplace abuse, said the official wishing not to be named.

As part of the process, they are taking interview of the job seekers after their 30 days' training to know what they have learnt, he said.

He refuted the allegations of torture against Saudi employers.

He thinks that most women workers want to return home due to homesickness.

However, the secretary of the ministry was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.

Migrant rights activists said the government should reconsider whether it would send domestic helps to the gulf country or not as long as their safety is concerned.

They said the authorities should follow the example of other countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.

These countries are now sending a limited number of woman workers to the KSA following allegations of violence against their domestic helps, they said.

WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque said women workers facing such harassments cannot contribute to the welfare of their families as well as the country's economy.

So, there is no use trying to increase such migration. The government should first ensure safety of the women, he said.

The rights activist observed that such harassment would not be stopped without proper intervention by the labour department of the KSA.

The strict selection process can only help reduce the violence against the women workers to a very negligible extent, he said.

However, Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, joint secretary general of BAIRA, said most women are in good condition.

That is why the number of outbound female workers is increasing day by day, he added.

Most of the women bring false allegations against their employers just to return home, he added.

He said the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) has asked all its members to form a monitoring cell in each of their offices.

These cells will contact the women workers in Saudi Arabia regularly, he said.

According to the Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB), over 4,000 women workers returned home between 2015 and 2017 through Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh.

In 2015, Dhaka and Riyadh signed a deal on recruitment of domestic helps from Bangladesh with a minimum monthly wage of 800 Saudi Riyals.

Since the signing of the deal, about 0.2 million women workers migrated to the gulf country, according to BMET data.

Since 1991, a total of 747,726 Bangladeshi women workers went to different countries for jobs. Of them, 244,307 went to the KSA, according to BMET.

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