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With Indonesia joining a host of countries to stop sending housemaids to the UAE, the options for families in the UAE wishing to hire a female domestic help have shrunk considerably.
Along with the diminishing options are the rising costs of recruiting housemaids as mandated by the amended rules and regulations of the countries providing the labour.
Traditionally, housemaids coming into the UAE were from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Ethiopia.
Around three years ago, housemaids from Kenya started coming to the UAE and at present, they comprise a very small percentage of the total domestic help.
Last week, the president of Indonesia Joko ''Jokowi'' Widodo announced that he had directed the labour department to come up with a plan to ensure that no Indonesians would work any longer as housemaids in foreign countries.
''I have asked the manpower minister to set a target and formulate a clear road map, to ensure that we stop sending domestic workers abroad. We should have some self-esteem and dignity,'' Widodo said.
Indonesia is the third country to have stopped sending housemaids abroad in recent years.
Nepal has restricted the emigration of housemaids, especially to the Middle East, for more than decade except for a brief interval during 2011- 2014.
The Philippines stopped sending housemaids to the UAE after June 2014 citing conflicting recruitment rules of the UAE and the Philippines. The issue arose when the UAE Ministry of Interior introduced a unified contract for domestic workers leading to the suspension of various embassies' roles in verifying and attesting contracts, including the Philippines.
''So far there is no change in the situation,'' a Filipino diplomat told Gulf News.
Although employers can recruit Filipino housemaids available in the UAE, the process is cumbersome, according to recruitment agents. The salaries of the housemaids have also spiked due to the high demand and low supply.
Ethiopian housemaids have started coming again to the UAE after a brief restriction imposed by their country during 2012-2014.
From the time India imposed strict conditions on recruitment in February 2008, the number of Indian housemaids coming into the UAE has gone down considerably.
Although Pakistan has not imposed any ban on emigration on housemaids, traditionally Pakistani women have not been going abroad for work due to cultural reasons. ''Our culture does not encourage women going abroad and taking up a housemaid's job,'' a senior diplomat at the Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News on Wednesday. The number of Pakistani housemaids in the UAE is very small, said the diplomat who did not want to be named. But he did not have any estimate of the housemaids working in the UAE.
With the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal placing an embargo on sending female domestic labour, and India placing greater restrictions on the hiring of its domestic labour force, it has opened the doors for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa to step into the breach.
Gulf News spoke to embassies, recruitment agents and employers to take stock of the situation.
Countries that have stopped sending housemaids abroad
List of countries that send housemaids to UAE
1. Sri Lanka
Learn about re-hiring a maid from Philippines which is possible
Source: Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter, gulfnews.com