As Philippine and Indonesian governments showed more concern to their citizens working in Saudi Arabia as maids and requested better salary and working conditions, the Saudi government is looking for 25,000 maids from Ethiopia in response, Saudi media reported.
The fact that the Saudi government refused the request of Philippine and Indonesia government to pay their citizens a minimum of 400 US dollars and open a bank account for each and every maid in Saudi banks are mentioned as some of the reasons for the Saudis to shift to cheap Ethiopian labor.
The reports also indicated that Ethiopia, whose citizens have been flocking to the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, is now found to be source of cheap labor whose government seems to care less about its citizens working conditions, like Philippines and Indonesia.
Saudi newspapers earlier quoted a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor saying Saudi employment agencies would recruit domestic workers including maids from countries other than the Philippines and Indonesia.
Like the Philippines and Indonesians Ethiopians have also been suffering in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East being exposed to severe working conditions, which often leads to death.
According to Yahya Hassan Al-Maqbool, head of the recruitment committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ethiopian recruitment offices should be able to provide the manpower following the kingdom’s decision to ban domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia.
"This will expedite the recruitment of Ethiopian housemaids and reduce the procedure’s duration which is three months at present," Al-Maqbool said in a statement. With this suggestion of Al-Maqbool to tap Ethiopian manpower, labor experts say the Philippine government can abandon any hope of sending domestic helpers to Saudi.
Al-Maqbool said that at present, Ethiopian recruitment officers were only allowed to deal with two Saudi offices. "The Ethiopian offices should be allowed to deal with many offices in the Kingdom," he said.
Each Saudi recruitment office was processing 60 visas from Ethiopia every month, he said. "We are requesting to increase the number of visas given to each Saudi office to 500 monthly," Al-Maqbool said.
He also called for more weekly flights between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia to "expedite the recruitment of housemaids from Ethiopia."
Al-Maqbool described the manpower recruited from Ethiopia so far as good, but said the final judgment would take time to make.
He expressed his belief that the recruitment of 25,000 housemaids from Ethiopia during the coming few months was not difficult or impossible if there was cooperation from the Ethiopian side.
"The Ethiopian manpower has proved that they are a successful substitute for manpower from Southeast Asia, who were causing a lot of problems," he said. According to critics it is the right time for the Ethiopian government to show concern to its citizens and start negotiating for better salary and working conditions following the suits of Philippine and Indonesia.
There are 170 offices in Ethiopia and 150 offices in Kenya that are licensed to export manpower to Saudi Arabia. According to press reports, the kingdom will open training institutes in the two African countries for the possible recruits. Many Saudi families are now even seeking the help of illegal housemaids who demand a monthly payment of 2,000 Saudi rials.