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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Domestic Workers

Qataris were up in arms yesterday after a proposal by the government to limit household to a maximum of two domestic workers, according to a story in the Peninsula.

As Qataris themselves point out, not every Qatari is rich. But with salaries of domestic workers starting at just QAR600 ($165 or GBP100) almost every Qatari family can and does have domestic workers.

To Westerners, coming from a culture where only the super rich can afford domestic workers, this may seem spoilt. However, many families could just not manage without help. An increasing number of Qatari women work nowadays, and with both parents in work by seven, even the school run becomes unfeasible without help.

Add to this the fact that large families are the norm, with familes often having six children or more, and you can see why Qataris become anxious at the thought of losing domestic help.

An additional proposal is for employment agencies to provide domestic workers on an hourly or daily basis. This might have the additional benefit of reducing abuse of domestic workers, with employment agencies able - and hopefully required - to monitor the workers. It could also reduce the large amount of runaways, many of whom then take on illegal work, but who get trapped in the country, unable to leave without first being taken into detention.

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