Domestic workers — a double-edged story

An undated photo of a domestic worker. (Photo: Jordan News)
The number of domestic workers in Jordan who flee their employers’ homes to work in jobs other than domestic work, or as day laborers in different houses, for which they are not authorized to work, is difficult to gauge, according to President of the Domestic Workers’ Recruitment Association Lawrence Abu Zaid.اضافة اعلان

Talking to Jordan News, Abu Zaid blamed “those who accept to employ an absconder”, as “they are encouraging them to keep on doing this unlawful act”, adding that “these workers only look for money and high profits”, disregarding the “legitimacy of the mechanism”.

Domestic workers, he said, earn approximately JD400 monthly, while fugitive workers can earn more than JD1,000 a month.

“If there were a real partnership between our association and the Ministry of Labor, there would have been an intensive control on such acts.” 
Abu Zaid said that the current legislation is not enough, and it still fails to control and regulate domestic workers’ work.

He ruled out the possibility that those workers are exploited by their original employers, stressing that “abused workers can resort to their embassies to protest. These workers intend to abscond looking for money, and I do not see any other reason”.

Khaled Hussainat, former president of the Domestic Workers’ Recruitment Association, told Jordan News that “the law prohibits citizens from employing an absconded worker, yet, some people still violate the law and commit this illegal act”.

He said that they are many absconded workers in Jordan, and that they live in specific areas like Jabal Amman, and Jabal Al-Akhdar, stressing that “serious law enforcement can reduce the violations by 90 percent”.
Hussainat emphasized, in this regard, the importance of intensifying inspections of the domestic workers and the importance of punishing those who employ escaped workers.

Attorney and a human rights activist Imad Sharqawi told Jordan News that “besides being illegal, employing an escaped worker has serious consequences”, as some of these workers may have certain diseases or may have committed a crime. Worse, “they do not have any personal documentation, and employing a worker without any personal documentation is itself a violation of the Human Trafficking Act”.

Sharqawi also stressed that if the domestic worker is abused by the employer, “she can resort to the courts to acquire her rights, especially since we live in a state that is committed to the rule of law.”

Official Spokesman of the Ministry of Labor Mohammad Al-Zyoud told Jordan News that if an employer notices odd or unpleasant behavior in the domestic worker in the first three months, the employer can have the worker replaced, adding that in the first months, both get the chance to know each other more.
Zyoud also stressed that a domestic worker can go to the Ministry of Labor and complain if she faces problems, but does not have the right to flee the employer’s home.

The ministry, he said, has the right to check the merits of each complaint it receives, and while there are cases when workers are abused, most often they are not.

Aida, an Indonesian domestic worker, shared her story with escaping in an interview with Jordan News: “I decided to run away to get more money, especially that at a certain time I felt that I had so much work to do for a small salary.

“At first, I slept in my friend’s house — she was a domestic worker too — but I was really terrified that night because there were many runaway workers sitting all together in one place, and I felt that I did not belong to that place.”
Aida said that she could not find the safety she was looking for and that it was really hard for her to walk around in the streets without any documentation; she spent nights thinking how she would travel back to her country and see her lonely daughter without documentation.

Fugitive workers might make better income, she said, but they will not be safe or loved. She had lived in her employer’s house for more than 15 years, and she missed them when she escaped, she said, adding that she regretted escaping and that if time could go back, she would not do it again.
The media spokesman for the Public Security Directorate said in remarks to Jordan News: “We receive many reports about escaped domestic workers on daily basis.”

The directorate, he said, has police patrols circulating and looking for escaped workers, in order to find them quickly.

According to a report issued by Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights last June, 33,777 domestic workers were registered in Jordan last year, including 10,402 Philippine nationals and 8,095 Bangladeshis.

The report also said that there are some 30,000 informal domestic workers who had left their former employers due to various reasons, including unpaid wages, ill treatment, long working hours, preventing them from communications with family, or lack of privacy.

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