During the month of Ramadan the monthly wages of housemaids working illegally have reportedly gone up from about SR1,000 to more than SR2,500.
The commission paid to brokers who provide the housemaids has also gone up to reach more than SR500.
Though a number of Saudi families are willing to pay these high prices and the commission, they still cannot find a housemaid for the fasting month.
Among all the Saudi towns and cities, Makkah and Madinah are hardest hit by the shortage of the housemaids.
A number of housewives told Saudi Gazette that the problem crops up particularly during Ramadan when families need extra hands to help them with the chores.
Salwa Hussain, a housewife, said the visa of her Filipino maid expired in May and she had to leave.
She said as a result, she suffered a lot looking for a replacement to work with her only during Ramadan.
She said she searched among the illegal Indonesian maids only to find that their wages were not only over SR2,500 but they also have other impossible conditions.
“They all demanded a day off every week and asked that their Eid leave starts from the 28th day of Ramadan,” Hussain said.
She said she was lucky to get an Indonesian housemaid through an intermediary who was also paid a high commission for his efforts.
“I had no choice but to acquiesce to the conditions of the maid and the intermediary who brought her to me,” she said.
Haya Hussain, a marketing employee, said she particularly needed a maid in Ramadan to help her look after her aging father and mother.
She said before Ramadan she found time to take care of her parents but her short time and tight schedule during the holy month would not allow her to do so.
Hussain said an Ethiopian intermediary helped her source an illegal housemaid from his country who agreed to work for her for SR2,500 for the month of Ramadan.
Majedah Hassan, a schoolteacher, said she needed a housemaid only for Ramadan because her children and grandchildren were to stay with her during the holy month.
She said after a thorough search of brokers she finally got an Indonesian maid who agreed to work for her for SR1,800.
She said the maid, however, had other difficult conditions.
“The maid said she should not be asked to cook and have a day off every week,” Hassan added.
Hassan said she agreed to all these conditions and paid the intermediary his commission. “The next day the housemaid disappeared without giving me any reasons,” she said.
She said when she informed the intermediary about the disappearance of the housemaid he asked her not to worry and promised to bring her another one as soon as possible.
She said: “The intermediary brought the new housemaid and also took commission for his work.
“This is downright robbery. Why should I pay the same intermediary twice for the same job?”
The housewives believe the brokers, mostly Ethiopian or Indonesian men, are exploiting the need of the Saudi families for housemaids during Ramadan and asking for high commissions that may go up to SR500 for each successful deal.
They noted a sharp drop in the number of illegal housemaids this year and attributed this to the intensive crackdown by Passport Department officials and the Labor Ministry.
The housewives said electronic fingerprinting has also helped reduce the number of illegal housemaids.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 9, 2014.