Saudi don't want Arab women to be maids - Too Many Guardians Hindering Society’s Progress: Al-Gosaibi
Raid Qusti - 28 April 2008
RIYADH — Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi yesterday criticized people who reject the idea of Arab and Saudi women working as maids in Saudi households.
“We are a society which is full of guardians,” Al-Gosaibi told reporters while answering a question about a proposal to have Egyptian housemaids in Saudi homes, as suggested by the Egyptian minister of labor.
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that all of you are guardians and that every guardian is responsible for his family. He did not say all of you are guardians for entire society,” said Al-Gosaibi.
The minister, who was surrounded by reporters when he met officials from Saudi Arabia’s governmental rights watchdog, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), said his ministry could not interfere if Saudi women, due to difficult financial conditions, wished to work as cleaners and cooks in people’s homes.
Saudis sponsor over 1.5 million foreign maids, the majority from southeast Asia. Even though the issue of needy Saudi women working in Saudi households was brought to the ministry’s attention in the past, conservative elements in society rejected the idea.
“I see that any job, whatever it may be, is an agreement between an employer and the employee. It is a matter of accepting and refusing. If there is a woman whose circumstances force her to work in a kitchen for a few hours and she accepts the payment, then I cannot come and say, ‘How could Saudi women take such jobs?’ Our mothers and grandmothers used to do such jobs. And they still do in the Bedouin culture,” he added. “The ministry or any other concerned authority has no business if a woman is satisfied with her payment. And I have no right to say that a Saudi woman should not be dubbed a ‘housemaid.’”
Regarding proposals to establish recruitment companies that would provide citizens laborers on hourly or daily bases, the minister said a royal decree had already been issued to study the matter.
He added that recruitment companies, however, did not show any enthusiasm over the proposal and preferred to maintain the status quo.
“We have decided to prepare a list of conditions and requirements for such companies, as well as define their role. We will then send that to the Council of Ministers for approval,” he said, adding that businessmen can then apply to establish new recruitment companies.
“These companies will offer labor services on a part-time or daily basis. We hope that a lot of the problems related to runaway laborers and non-paying sponsors would be solved with the establishment of these companies,” he said.
Al-Gosaibi said the Labor Ministry would not intervene if labor exporting countries chose to raise the wages of their nationals coming to work in the Kingdom. “It is not my business to interfere if a country decides to raise the price of recruitment. I cannot simply threaten to ban them. This is not ethically, legally, or civilly acceptable,” he said, adding that people can simply hire cheaper labor from other countries.
On the issue of women-only shops, which had previously been supported and then stopped by the ministry, Al-Gosaibi said the matter was still being studied. “We are keen on implementing this. However, we have given up the ‘deadline initiative,’” he said, adding that the initiative was misunderstood by many.
The minister also ruled out the idea of his ministry paying unemployment benefits to Saudi citizens. He said that this would only encourage people to remain at home and increase inflation.
“We should not begin where others have finished,” he said. “Many countries are now regretting giving dole to the unemployed. Six countries in the European Union have even reduced dole by half.”
Al-Gosaibi said Saudi nationals have no excuse for being unemployed and that people can get training, leading to employment. He said that companies pay between SR1,500 and SR2,000 during training. “The Human Resources Development Fund will then pay half of the salary once a person finishes training,” he added.
“Training is more dignified than staying at home. It would also increase a person’s chances of developing his skills. If every Saudi was determined to train there would not be a single unemployed person in the country.”
Regarding a proposal to merge the Labor Ministry with the Ministry of Civil Services, Al-Gosaibi said preliminary committees were still studying the matter. “The committees will also take into account the experiences of other countries,” he said, adding that it was a complicated issue that needed careful study.
This minister is trying to bring the Saudis out of their jahil, arrogant and lazy ways, and so he has been called names ("liberal", "anti-saudi", etc.) for saying things (like arab women working as maids and no unemployment for lazy saudis) that Saudis don't like or want to hear. After all it is a lot easier to not pay and abuse non-Arab maids and to sit at home and collect unemployment.