By PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 16 May 2011
Dubai: The Sri Lanka authorities are currently outlining strategies to slowly reduce the number of housemaids dispatched from the island to work in the UAE and other Gulf countries, reveals a top government representative visiting the Emirates to explore opportunities in skilled and semi-skilled Lankan labour supply.
Dilan Perera, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare of Sri Lanka, said that the authorities are unofficially discouraging the citizens to take up housemaid jobs abroad, as the country gradually trains the people for skilled and dignified professional opportunities.
“The title and job description of the domestic workers also have to be upgraded from ‘housemaid’ to ‘housekeeper’ in accordance with training them scientifically. There’s also a long-term term plan for demanding compulsory minimum wage system for the migrant Lankan workforce abroad,” the minister indicated.
“Supplying domestic workers to the foreign job market by ensuring their security and rights as well as welfare and rehabilitation while they return to the island has been raising constant issues which are unresolved often,” Perera pointed out.
Speaking on the sidelines of Sri Lanka Employment Promotion Seminar staged in Dubai on Sunday, the minister noted that Sri Lanka wants to offer more skilled and quality manpower to the UAE and other foreign job markets.
“An innovative mechanism is currently being developed in Sri Lanka to implement job-specific, country-specific and company-specific training programmes for the citizens, who seek foreign opportunities,” he said.
“We are looking at possibilities of backward integration, in building education institutions, in collaboration with Dubai entrepreneurs by offering opportunities to invest in those institutions, which are devoted to producing certified semi-skilled and skilled personnel for the entire specialised Middle East job market,” elaborated Perera.
According to him, Sri Lanka is next to China in the Asian Human Resources Index. It has been building quality human resources and supplying to the other parts of the world for years.
“We are implementing resolving the problems of our migrant manpower and improve their welfare system, by introducing education scholarship to the children of Gulf returnees. Work-related complaints such as employee or agent harassment, physical abuse, health challenges and issues of absconding maids have significantly come down at the Lankan missions in the UAE.”
“Meanwhile, Lankan workers’ complaints are 10 times higher in other Gulf countries. There are only 35 to 40 complaints are registered on an average in the UAE, while some 30 to 40 cases are recorded regarding the absconding housemaids,” Perera said.
Speaking at the seminar, Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in the UAE, announced an education project for the working Sri Lankans in the UAE.
“The UAE’s Sri Lankan employees with a minimum of managerial experience are offered a global standard two-year long management education programme through a cost-effective distance learning scheme from Open University of Sri Lanka, under the direct supervision of the mission,” he said.
“The two study centres will be opened one each in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where more professional courses will be introduced later in affiliation with the Open University of UK,” he added.
MM Abdul Raheem, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Dubai and Northern Emirates, said, “Sri Lanka has a literacy rate of 95 per cent, one of the highest in the South Asia. The workforce is easily trainable and could cater to the global demand.”
"The UAE is home to about 2,50,000 migrant Sri Lankan workers, out of which 190,000 expatriates are employed in Dubai and Northern Emirates. A significant majority of them are engaged in domestic helpers in the UAE,” he added.
“The number of Sri Lankan skilled labourers already employed in various sectors in the UAE is clear evidence that Sri Lanka could supply to the need of the international standards,” noted Raheem.