‘Black market’ for maids thrives in Saudi

As Ramadan nears, middlemen raise the stakes

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With the holy month of Ramadan only days away and many Saudi families willing to pay any amount of money to get the services of a housemaid, a black market for domestic workers is thriving in the kingdom.

Housemaid brokers taking advantage of the high demand are charging between $950 and $1,300 a month or $110 to $130 a day in wages, Al-Riyadh daily reported – far above the average wages for low-skilled domestic workers.


The delay in solving housemaid recruitment problem has contributed to the emergence of the middle men.

Abdulaziz al-Asiri, a Saudi citizen, tried to get a housemaid through a website. He contacted a recruitment office that promised to find him a maid within two months and even paid him the money. Two months later, Al-Asiri discovered it was a scam and his money was gone.

Badria al-Dayes, another Saudi, was desperately searching for a housemaid because she could not recruit one. She tried to search through legal channels but with no luck.

“I had no choice but to contact a broker to get me a housemaid. I agreed to pay her $1,600 for this month and Ramadan as well. I paid the broker $270 in down payment,” she said.

However, the maid worked for five days then stopped because she got tired, al-Dayes said.

Nowadays, housemaids are highly demanding because they know employers will agree to any conditions. For example, most housemaids do not want to work for big families that have several children and the majority of them want to talk over the cell phone anytime of the day.

Fake offices

Yahya al-Maqbook, chairman of the recruitment committee at Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said most brokers give false promises to clients and charge less money in order to make customers fall for their scams.

“People should know that recruiting a maid does take longer than two months and the whole process depends on the red-tape and bureaucracy in the country of recruitment. They should be know this fact and never believe a recruitment office that promises them to get things done faster,” he advised.

He warned families against contacting online recruitment offices that have not been licensed by the Ministry of Labor and called upon them to always go to licensed offices that guarantee legitimate services and will deliver on promises. He also reminded them that Ramadan is the month of worship, not the month of eating all types of fancy food items.

Maqbook said the committee would issue new recruitment regulations and contracts soon.


The Ministry of Labor and Social Development said it will intensify crackdown campaigns targeting maid brokers and unlicensed recruitment offices, said Khalid Aba al-Khail, director of information at the ministry.

“We are working with the Saudi embassies in several Asian countries to crack down on fake recruiters. We will impose severe penalties on fake recruitment brokers caught in the Saudi market,” he added.

This article was adapted from a story published in the Saudi Gazette on May 27, 2015.

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