Muscat: Domestic maids could soon be hired by the hour, according to Oman’s Minister of Manpower.
The plan – currently under discussion – could effectively kill the black market for maids in the Sultanate and help reduce absconding.
A “wage-per-hour” system to curb cases of absconding maids across the country is being considered, according to Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Bakri, Minister of Manpower.
The new scheme would mean Omanis and residents could hire domestic maids as and when required. At the moment anyone who wants to hire a maid has to pay up to OMR1,500 in registration fees.
“A committee including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Manpower and the Public Authority for Consumer Protection has been formed to find solutions to this problem such as establishing a company that can provide a wage-per-hour service,” the minister said.
With up to 50 absconding housemaids being arrested weekly in Oman, the Minister of Manpower has also called on citizens to stop hiring them.
During Sunday’s Majlis Al Shura session, members protested the “high cost” of hiring a housemaid in the Sultanate and the lack of “insurance” in cases of
Three in every 100 expatriate workers in Oman run away from their jobs, according to the minister.
“Society is also responsible in encouraging domestic workers to abscond as they tend to hire them later,” said Al Bakri.
“The ministry arrests between 300 and 500 violating labourers including 30 to 50 female housemaids every week,” he stated.
“We don’t have the ability to hire an inspector for each worker here,” he said.
He said that between 19,000 and 22,000 workers who were found violating the Omani Labour Law are being arrested every year.
However, the minister said that the government is not responsible for compensating nationals in case a domestic worker leaves their job.
The maid should not pay for it either, according to Al Bakri.
“When we find an absconding worker, sometimes they do not even have one rial in their pockets,” he said.
“One of the studies and solutions to this,” Al Bakri suggested, “is to address insurance companies to be involved in insuring domestic workers.”
According to a Shura member, families pay an initial payment that can reach OMR1,500 to hire a housemaid and then pay him/her a salary that can reach up to OMR140 per month.
“I have seen such trends happen in other countries and so I feel it is only a matter of time when it happens in Oman. The demand for such workers is very high so there has to be such services to make it easier for people in the country,” said Tarik Ali, organiser of the recently held exhibition on cleaning and facilities management.
Plans are in the pipeline to allow residents to hire maids and cleaners on a rental basis from cleaning companies, according to Ali.
“I think it’s a good idea and more workers and households should be given such opportunities. Sometimes people are not in need of resident housemaids, for example for some small families, but they still need to have someone to take care of their houses, so they can have temporary workers. It’s good especially for small families for house chores, and government organisations, where they just come, do the work and go.”
Currently, many residents resort to hiring domestic workers illegally on an hourly basis.
Residents have voiced concerns over low supply of such workers due to high expenses. Ahmed, a resident of Ruwi, told his ordeal of hiring a worker to clean his car and help in domestic work.
“I struggled to bring a worker from India due to high costs and paperwork involved. Failing to get one, I hired a person on monthly basis to do household work, however, he was arrested for illegal work and now again I have to look for someone,” he said. He added that it is important to have a legal system where workers can be hired on an hourly basis.
Several startups that target this market have successfully established themselves around the world, however, the GCC region does not seem to have such a system yet.
Ali added: “The potential is huge. People need these workers to help them. I have seen it happening in other countries and it will just take some more time but it will come up.”
Saud Salmi, a trade unionist who focuses on domestic workers’ issues, said that it has been discussed in the past also.
“However, if the government is seriously going to implement it, then it would be a good move. This can help the employer to look for better service options rather than just hiring a domestic worker who may not be able to perform the duties,” the trade unionist said.
“If an employer wants to employ a domestic worker on temporary basis, then this system could help,” he added.
Rafeek Ravuther, an Indian migrants’ rights activist, said that it is a good initiative and it can eradicate the current bad practices up to an extent.
“However, wage factor should be discussed and fixed fairly. Hiring on an hourly basis should not harm the current wage system deals signed with sending countries,” Rafeek added.