Thursday, September 06, 2007

Abusing Workers

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a rise in labor abuse in Saudi Arabia:
"According to HRW, approximately 2 million women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and other countries work as domestic helpers here. Many of them face a slew of problems, from late payment of salaries, extended working hours, beatings, and sexual assault, during the length of a typical two-year contract.

"An indication of how bad things can get for domestic workers are the shelters for runaway maids run by both the Philippine and Indonesian diplomatic missions in Riyadh and Jeddah...

"The Indonesian Embassy has been so swamped with cases of abused workers that it has hired a full-time Saudi lawyer to deal with all of the criminal cases...

"The fate of abused workers in Saudi Arabia is further complicated by the fact that labor-exporting countries in Asia, pressured by growing populations, feel an obligation to send larger and larger numbers of workers overseas in search of work. This has caused many of these governments not to press to hard concerning abuses against their workers out of fear that protesting too much could offend Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

"When Indonesia tried a few years ago to raise the minimum age and salaries of maids sent to work abroad, a coalition of employment agencies in the Gulf threatened to look elsewhere in Asia for maids and drivers. Jakarta soon backed down on the salary front and continued to send maids to the Middle East."

This is the sort of problem the United States could easily use trade leverage to help alleviate.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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