Saudi Arabia signs accord to protect Philippine maids

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The Philippines said Monday it had signed a historic agreement with Saudi Arabia that would protect thousands of Filipina maids from being exploited in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The agreement guarantees Filipina maids benefits like a day off each week while preventing their hiring costs from being deducted from their salary among other safeguards, said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in a statement.

“We are very confident that cases of abuse will be less after this agreement takes effect because the agreement ensures fair and humane treatment of our HSWs (home service workers),” she said.

She estimated that 60,000 domestic helpers from among the 670,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia would benefit from the accord which would also attract more Filipinas to work in Saudi Arabia.

Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia is committed to set up a 24-hour hotline for labor dispute resolution, the department said.

The agreement is aimed at preventing exploitation of Filipina maids such as confiscation of their passports to control them, overworking them with no rest days and preventing them from returning home.

It follows a row that erupted in 2011 when the Philippines insisted on a minimum wage for its maids among other measures.

Saudi Arabia initially resisted the demands and suspended the entry of new maids but in September of last year, it agreed to a $400 a month minimum wage and lifted the ban.

About 10 percent of the Philippine population of almost 100 million have gone abroad to work in better-paying jobs than they can get in their largely impoverished homeland.

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