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Mon 16 Feb 2015 11:00 AM

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Indonesia urges ban on migrant housemaids

Move by new president would have profound implications for countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, which have large communities of expat Indonesian workers

Indonesia urges ban on migrant housemaids
Indonesias President Joko Widodo. (Getty Images)

Indonesia’s new president has called for a ban on Indonesian women travelling abroad to work as housemaids, the country’s state news agency reports.

The ban would have profound implications for countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, which have large communities of expat Indonesian workers.

But President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, who took office in October, said the practice lowered self-esteem and dignity.

“I have asked the Manpower Minister to set a target and formulate a clear road map, to ensure that we stop sending domestic workers abroad. We should have some self-esteem and dignity,” he told the National Congress on Friday.

Widodo said on a recent tour of Malaysia and the Philippines he learned there were a total of 2.3 million Indonesian migrant workers living in those countries, and that 1.2 million of them were considered illegal.

There also are hundreds of thousands of Indonesians working in Gulf states, mostly as domestic workers.

In February last year, Saudi Arabia agreed to improve working conditions and the rights of thousands of Indonesians working in the kingdom after a long running dispute with the Indonesian government that had seen the Asian nation temporarily ban its nationals from travelling to Saudi.

This is not the first time Indonesia has called for a clampdown on women working as domestic helpers in the Gulf. In August 2013 the Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi blacklisted several UAE recruitment agencies for trafficking housemaids to Arab countries against their will, The National reported at the time.

That same year, reports Doha News, the country temporarily banned its citizens from going to Qatar as it could not afford to help the three to five women who were seeking shelter at the Indonesian embassy in Doha each day.