And another nation opts out....
Kuwait times, 26 November 2013
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That comes on the heels of stories like this....
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Times are a'changing. Kuwait is finally getting serious about abuse/violence against domestic helpers (mostly because of international pressure from not only human rights organizations, but from the countries of origin of the helpers), but on the other hand, it is now more difficult to find full-time, live-in maids. Pretty soon, there will be daycare centers and retirement homes in Kuwait because no one will be able to get a maid to look after the elderly and their kids; or it will just cost too much (like in the US where you must pay an hourly minimum wage and provide benefits).
I look at it from both sides:
Point of view of the employer: My friends are decent and I know that when they tell me that their helpers are doing things like stealing or neglecting their children, I believe them. They have paid a fee to a recruitment agency and they have to return the helper to an agency and request another helper who they've got to then train and build a relationship of trust with. That's all very stressful. When both the mom and dad work, they need someone to take care of the kids and run the house. For many young Kuwaiti couples (and some that aren't so young), a maid/helper is really a necessity. It isn't like there is affordable daycare here. I ask my American friends with full-time, live-in maids and they tell me the same thing; it is difficult to find a good helper.
DG POV: I know that I would have a really hard time inviting a stranger to live in my home and entrusting her with the care of my dog. I can't imagine what it would be like entrusting your children to a stranger. My part-time maid does weird things and I suspect she's trying to do some kind of magic (yeah, it happens). She leaves long strands of her hair throughout my home (including in my personal items) and it not only grosses me out, but freaks me out at the same time. A former maid who was working PT for both myself and one of my American friends stole around $10,000 worth of jewelry from me - and stole my friend's diamond engagement ring; then left the country. She had worked for both of us for years. If they ever implement employment regulations/pay like they have in the US, I wouldn't be able to afford a maid. I LIKE that I can afford one here; even have a live-in maid if I chose to do that.
Point of view of the helper: What if you're sent over here, you don't know the language, you don't know the people you are going to live with, and they all seem demanding and arrogant (and in extreme cases, abusive). You don't have any friends and if you do, you can't get out to see them. The employer may or may not abide by the law, paying salary on time (or at all), and giving a day off for rest. What do you do? Who do they call? The "maid's rooms" in many of these homes is more like a cell. Or they're asked to sleep somewhere like the living room and roll up their bedding in the morning. Do that for a few years? Not me.
I've been here for 17 years and the majority of my friends are Kuwaiti. Of course, I consider my friends to be good people (if they aren't, I wouldn't stay friends with them). I've only seen 1 case in all my time here when I went to a friend's home and saw that they were abusive to the maid. It was 1997 or 1998 and I saw the eldest brother (around 45-50 years old) slap a maid. He wasn't my friend; it was her family's home where we went for lunch. It was shocking and I didn't go back. You can usually tell when a maid/helper is happy or not just by looking at them - even at the malls.
I HATE to see domestic helpers dressed in uniforms walking through a mall. Their low-class employers must consider it chic to have them dressed up and paraded around in public. I find it disgraceful. I always want to run up and say, "Who the hell do you think you are?!" These people are NOT of the upper classes. My friends who are from the Kuwaiti royal family or upper class wouldn't do something like that. In fact, the people I know treat their employees like friends and the helpers have been with them for many years. My dear sheikha friend has a helper who raised her; and sheikha has no problem telling you that she did. She loves her and it is obvious; helper lady smiles and laughs from the heart and often (similar to other helpers I know working for other friends).
One of my friends brought his maid/nanny to the camp last weekend to watch his 3 young boys (it didn't do any good because they are little "skamps" and the oldest almost got his head cut off riding a bungee). Anyhoo, she had on tight jeans and looked like she as his girlfriend not his nanny... until he asked her to go clean my tent (I had a little hissy fit because someone I didn't know went in there without asking). One minute girlfriend is sitting around joking with us and the next she's sweeping dirt off my carpet. She was happy and didn't mind at all. I brought her a Pepsi. She seemed to be a very happy domestic helper.
On the other hand, I have an acquaintance who posted a video of an Ethiopian domestic helper walking with a suitcase out of a neighborhood, crying, at 2 am. He videotaped her as he asked her what had happened (she had been abused in a home that night and was leaving); and then, instead of helping her get to a police station or someone safe, he drove away! I wouldn't leave an animal on the side of the road and he just drove away!
I can see how countries would ban their workers from going to a place where they had too many complaints. The next step to that would be to create agreements with the government so that there are enforceable laws in place or measures so that their workers would be protected. Yeah - kind of like the balls that the Philippines Embassy in Kuwait grew a while back. Be nice, or we send our help elsewhere.