Indonesian envoy wants fewer maids sent to UAE

New ambassador says his country's skilled and professional workers would be of greater benefit, as Indonesia moves to stop sending its nationals to work abroad as maids by 2017.

Salman Al Farisi, the new Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE, says there will be opportunities for skilled Indonesian workers in the oil and gas, hospitality and aviation sectors.
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ABU DHABI // The new Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE wants to see the number of his countrywomen coming to the UAE as housemaids drop by at least 15 per cent within three years.

Salman Al Farisi, 53, said this would be a first step towards stopping unskilled workers moving to the Emirates altogether.

Mr Al Farisi, who recently replaced Wahid Supriyadi, said he hoped a growing number of professional and skilled Indonesian workers would be employed in the country instead.

"I think it's attainable," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities for professionals in the oil and gas, hospitality and aviation sectors in the UAE."

This month he met Rashed Al Shamsi, the senior vice president of Abu Dhabi Gas Industries (Gasco), who he said was willing to recruit more Indonesian professionals in Abu Dhabi.

"They would like to expand their petrochemical and oil and gas activities here," Mr Al Farisi said.

Sixty-five per cent of the estimated 100,000 Indonesians in the UAE are housemaids, said Hannan Hadi, head of the consular section at the Indonesian Embassy.

In January, the federal Cabinet approved a draft law giving domestic workers new rights, including a weekly day off.

It requires employers to compensate or give a day in lieu to domestic staff who work on their day off.

The draft law must now be passed by the FNC and signed into law by Sheikh Khalifa, the President.

"We applaud the UAE and hope the law will be in place soon," Mr Al Farisi said.

By 2017, Indonesia will stop sending its nationals to work as housemaids abroad.

"I support the target of our government not to send unskilled female workers by 2017, to ensure that our workers are safe and are well protected," Mr Al Farisi said.

"It's also important that we prepare to send more skilled workers going overseas to work."

Dr Cynthia Jenkins, an Indonesian general practitioner in Abu Dhabi who helps out at the embassy, also supports her government's move.

Dr Jenkins said most domestic staff work more than 10 hours a day, in which time they eat only once. Some are subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

Indonesia's government set the minimum wage for housemaids and nannies at Dh800.

But Dr Jenkins said this was often flouted.

"Some get paid Dh600 and they even have to beg for their salaries," she said. "This is absolutely crazy."