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The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia bans the words 'maid' and 'servant' in job adverts

Some 10 million foreign nationals work in Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 April, 2021

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Following limited reforms to its controversial 'kafala' employment system, Saudi Arabia has banned employers from advertising for 'maids' and 'servants', saying that the word 'worker' should be used instead.
Saudi authorities have barred employers from advertising jobs for "maids" and "servants".
The Saudi Ministry of Commerce said this week employers should advertise for "workers" instead, UAE-based The National reported.

The new directive is part of a series of reforms to the controversial kafala sponsorship system that has long governed the lives of migrant workers in the kingdom.

The system requires foreign workers to be "sponsored" by their employers, and has been criticised by human rights groups for allowing employers to exploit workers and control their movements.

Some 10 million foreign nationals work in Saudi Arabia.

Around 3.7 million are employed as domestic workers, a job routinely plagued by abuse allegations in much of the Gulf.

Earlier this year, a Saudi woman was sentenced to death over the killing of a Bangladeshi domestic worker in her employment. The verdict was a rare acknowledgement of the abuse of migrant workers in the kingdom.

Since then, Riyadh has introduced a number of reforms to the kafala system.

Migrant workers will now be able to change jobs after the expiry of their contract without their employer's permission. They will also not be required to seek permission from their employer to travel.

The system has not been entirely abolished, however, and the migrant workers still remain tied to their employers - or kafeel - through work and residence visas, leaving them vulnerable to abuse according to human rights groups.

Saudi authorities are currently studying a system that would compensate Saudis if a domestic worker under their employ absconds, according to a recent report.

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