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Tue 19 Feb 2008 04:53 PM

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Saudi needs two million maids, cooks

Experts predict thousands of foreign domestic workers needed over next decade.

Saudi Arabia needs more than 2 million domestic workers, including maid, cooks and housekeepers, to work in different parts of the kingdom over the next decade, an expert said on Monday.

Walid Al Suwaidan, director of recruitment at Riyadh's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told al-Eqtisadiah newspaper the kingdom's labour market would receive over 250,000 to 300,000 workers of various nationalities per year over the next ten years.

"The establishment of nurseries will help reduce recruitment from outside the Kingdom," said Al Suwaidan.

"This would drastically reduce the entry of foreign domestic workers and at the same time create job opportunities for Saudi women."

Al Suwaidan also called on people to abandon hiring too many domestic helpers, and also for those who hire maids purely for the prestige to stop doing so.

"One family stipulated in the marriage contract that the groom should hire a maid," Al Suwaidan added.

"I believe that a newly married woman should be able to depend upon herself to take care of her husband and the household affairs."

The number of maids of various nationalities currently working in the Kingdom is estimated at one million.

Saudi employers reportedly incur annual losses of 38 million Saudi riyals ($10 million) as a result of domestic workers deserting them, reported Arab News. In 1999 and 2000, there were more than 6,000 cases of runaway maids.

The GCC since December last year has also been considering a controversial residency cap on how long semi-skilled and unskilled foreign workers can live in the Gulf.

The proposal has sparked outrage among expatriate communities and was widely criticised by businesses already struggling to retain staff.

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