Discourages maids from seeking jobs abroad in bid to safeguard their interests


* Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

* Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Perera said skilled and semi-skilled workers were easily trainable and can cater to the global demand.

Dubai: Sri Lanka is seeking more job opportunities in the UAE for its skilled workforce whilst discouraging housemaids from travelling abroad to take up employment, a Sri Lankan minister said in Dubai yesterday.

Dilan Perera, Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare (FEPW), is visiting the UAE as part of a mission to promote employment opportunities in three countries — Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

"About 45 per cent of the 250,000-strong Sri Lankan workforce in the UAE [are] employed as housemaids. But now, we are discouraging them from travelling abroad for work because this creates more problems than solutions," he said.

Around 35 to 40 grievances are received on average every month from housemaids in the UAE. However, this is much lower than the number of grievances received in other countries in the region.

"The number of complaints is almost ten times lower in the UAE."

Grievances include cases of harassment by employers, harassment by recruitment agents and cases of maids who want to return home due to health problems.

To protect housemaids, the minimum age for working outside the country was recently increased from 18 to 21, and there is a plan to increase this further, Perera said.

"We urge UAE recruiters to look at employing more of our skilled and semi-skilled workers," Perera said at an employment promotion seminar organised yesterday by the Embassy and Consulate of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the FEPW and the Bureau of Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka.

"Sri Lanka has a literacy rate of 95 per cent, one of the highest in South Asia. The workforce is easily trainable and could cater to the global demand," he said. "The number of skilled labourers already employed in various sectors in the UAE is clear evidence that Sri Lanka could supply to the needs of international standards."

The breakdown

Last year, over 42,000 Sri Lankans found jobs in the UAE — 11,285 as housemaids, 13,231 as unskilled workers, 2,945 in clerical jobs, 2,480 in middle level jobs, 2,037 in semi-skilled jobs, 9,328 in skilled jobs and 763 in professional employment.

The country's diversified and skilled human resource pool is backed by government measures to safeguard the interests of employers and employees, the minister said.

"Sri Lanka blacklists recruitment agencies [which] have failed to fulfil their obligations, as well as employees who return without reason before their job contracts are completed."

Perera said that the duration of the recently introduced seven-day government-sponsored training for workers before they embark on work abroad will soon be increased to 21 days.

"The workers will undergo basic training in the language of the destination country as well as [the] English [language]."

Source: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/sri-lanka-markets-skilled-workforce-1.808263