Browsing 'domestic workers' News

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By Rose Herrera

Filipina expat Rose Herrera has worked in Qatari and expat households in Doha for 24 years. She is about to leave her existing sponsor, who is moving back to their home country.

Here, she explains the trials facing some domestic workers looking for fair employment, and calls on employers to treat her colleagues with respect and dignity.

I am a housemaid and nanny, working here in Qatar for more than two decades. I’m currently working with a family who I’ve been with for more than five years.

I have been lucky to have them because they treated me nicely, as a member of their family. But now they are leaving Qatar for good and the time will come for me to move on. I’m gonna miss them.

I have had good conditions with them, not like other housemaids and nannies that I sometimes meet.

Long days

Many maids work long hours – more than 10 hours a day. Some of them have no day off a week – even on a Friday, they are still working.

And it’s physically hard work. Usually I clean the bathrooms, tidy up around the house, dust and mop all the floors, vacuum, iron if I have time. Then I have lunch and a rest before the children come home from school.

Pixabay

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Some days I am very tired, especially if I’ve had a very busy day.

I know other maids who have curfews, so they can’t go out for an evening during the weekend.

And they have a small salary – some of them get QR1,500 or QR1,600 a month.

One recent report said this is the average now for a maid in Qatar. But in my experience, it is not enough to live on, especially as many maids need to buy their own toiletries and phone cards.

Supporting my family

I came to Qatar after my father died, and I supported my two sisters through high school and college, as well as my mother. At first, I sent almost all my money home every month and had nothing left to spend on myself.

People ask me why I’ve stayed here so long, but I have lots of family in the Philippines to look after.

I send home about QR1,200 each month normally.

That goes to food and electricity for my 12 year-old daughter and my mother, a small allowance to buy my daughter things she needs for school, medicine for my mom and of course school fees. I want my daughter to go to college and get a good job.

Pixabay

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I also support my 17-year-old niece, as her mother doesn’t have a job and her father is not around.

If it’s a special occasion, like birthdays, I’ll send more home for cakes and small presents.

For Christmas, all my salary goes home so my daughter and mother can each have a new dress.

Before I got married, I saved enough money to build a house, where my daughter and mother now live.

It still needs the kitchen to be finished and painted throughout, so I’m trying to save some money for that too.

Better future

Many housemaids in Qatar are in a similar position to me – some have more children, three or four.

They have to pay all those school fees and budget for their food. And many of them are single moms, so they are the only ones earning money for their family.

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I think the minimum a maid should earn here is QR2,000. That would give them money to buy what they need, and still a little to send home to their families.

The reason we are here is to make some money for our children and parents in our home countries.

We sacrifice our lives for them so they can get a good education, get a degree and have a better paying job.

Wages in the Philippines are very low. If I had stayed there, I don’t know if I could have sent my daughter to high school.

Locked in

Some nannies aren’t very lucky. I know maids who have been harassed and mistreated by their employers, or given little food.

Some employers don’t even give their housemaid or nanny a day off, or if they do, it’s a limited time and as soon as they reach their home, they still have work to do.

I know of at least one maid who was locked inside the house when the family went away for the summer vacation.

Other maids are not allowed to leave their compound without their sponsor, or even talk to other maids inside the compound.

Brian Evans/Flickr

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And some sponsors don’t give us Qatar holidays off, like Eid Al Adha, Eid Al Fitr, National Day or Sport Day.

Having a day off and away from the house is a big help for homesickness. I have family here, but others are very lonely.

Getting together with friends – going to church, having lunch, going to the Corniche or the park – it is the best medicine because you have someone to speak to and for a few hours, forget about work and the problems of the week, and just talk and laugh together.

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Some housemaids have worked in Qatar for five or 10 years, but when their sponsor leaves for good, they aren’t given any benefits like end of service.

Others still have their passports held by their employer, which is illegal. And some don’t have a (Hamad) health card, so they are obliged to pay for their own.

I saw the new law for maids (Domestic Workers Law, No. 15 of 2017, signed by the Emir last month) and I was happy to see holiday leave, flights home and other rights for housemaids and nannies.

We hope that we can all avail of these mandatory rules by the Emir to help us live a decent life in Qatar.

Thoughts?

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Domestic workers in Qatar now earn on average US$450 (QR1,645) a month, up 4.4 percent from $431 (QR1,575) last year, according to a new survey by an online recruitment firm.

The report, published by HelperChoice, is compiled annually. This year, it analyzed some 2,000 job advertisements placed on the site between January and August.

The data showed that salaries across the region increased in 2017. Domestic workers in the UAE earned the highest average salary per month ($494), up 14 percent from $433 last year.

Helperchoice.com

Domestic workers in the UAE command the highest wages

Qatar’s workers earn the second highest salaries in the GCC, the report said, followed by Saudi Arabia in third ($442) and Kuwait in fourth place ($419.)

The figures quoted are for salaries only, and do not include flights, medical care or other allowances, such as food or clothing.

Doha slips in city rankings

Notably, people living in Doha were willing to pay higher salaries than those living in Al Khor, according to the report.

Employers in Qatar’s capital paid QR1,612 ($461) on average, while those in the north offered QR1,411 ($386) a month.

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Compared to other cities in the Gulf, Doha fell in the rankings this year, from second place to fourth.

Dubai took the top spot for best-paid domestic helpers, followed by Kuwait and Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, the lowest paid workers in the GCC are in Makkah, where they earn an average of $360 a month.

New domestic worker law

The apparent increase in average income for domestic workers in Qatar follows the passage of a new law to help protect the country’s home helpers.

Amnesty International

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Law No. 15 of 2017 states that newly-hired nannies, maids, drivers and gardeners must have a written contract with their employer.

Previously, these were not required, and this meant that they could not file complaints against their employers with the labor ministry.

The law also says that househelpers should have a maximum 10-hour day, during a maximum six-day week.

The legislation is historic in that no such caps were defined before.

However, this still means that a worker earning the average of QR1,645 a month makes about QR7 an hour in Qatar.

 

Thoughts?

Nasser al-Naama

Nasser Al-Naama’s nanny, Yaya, with his sisters.

Hoping to show his childhood nanny how much he appreciated her, a Qatari man recently recorded a video thanking the woman in her native language.

The tribute was for Filipina expat Yaya Zubaidah, who left Qatar six years ago after working in the country for two decades.

Al-Naama said he chose to deliver his message in Tagalog to also show his gratitude for Qatar’s large Filipino population.

Speaking to Doha News, Al-Naama explained:

“I feel that the Filipino community is often overlooked and under-appreciated in Qatar, and it’s a shame.

“I recognized the power of story telling and tried to convey an important message of gratitude using the video.”

Tribute to Filipina nanny

Through his nanny, Al-Naama said he used to practice speaking Tagalog, and hopes to become fluent in it one day.

With the help of Jordan De La Cruz at Qatar Living, he was able to accurately translate his heartfelt message into the language.

Pixabay

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Describing Zubaidah as “the seventh member of our family,” Al-Naama said that that she had been “a quintessential part of (his) entire family’s life.”

In the video, he added:

“Because of her, I feel an immediate kinship with Filipinos anywhere I go in the world. Even though I can’t speak the language (yet), I feel like an extended family member of the global Kabayan community.”

Referencing the ongoing Gulf dispute, Al-Naama also highlighted the local Filipino community’s solidarity with his country.

“I especially want to thank you for standing by Qatar and showing your support during the recent crisis,” he said in Tagalog.

Separated by retirement

Zubaidah began working for Al-Naama’s family before he was born, and retired in 2011.

Her move back home to the Philippines to be with her family affected Al-Naama deeply, he said.

“Even though I knew she would retire one day, when it actually happened it was a completely different ball game. It was so hard.” 

Al-Naama added that he had found it hard to keep in contact with Zubaidah after she left because he was so upset.

But his message brought about a reunion, via Skype.

In scenes shared on Philippines television, Al-Naama was able to talk with his childhood nanny and tell he how much he missed her.

Showing visible emotion in the video, Al-Naama explained why he hadn’t kept in touch, and that he felt “really bad” about it.

“You were part of our lives for more than 20 years, and I wanted to do something. I didn’t just want to call you. I wanted to do something special,” he explained.

Sacrifices made

Like most domestic workers living abroad, Zubaidah was supporting her family back home.

Al-Naama said he knew that this meant she had to sacrifice being with her own husband and two daughters, to help raise someone else’s family.

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For this reason especially, he said that he believed people in Qatar should be “very compassionate” when employing staff who have had to leave their loved ones behind.

“She (Zubaidah) was always present in my life, when she wasn’t present for her biological children. Her daughter has said that her mum missed so many important events in her life.

I never underestimated that.”

Thoughts?