Indonesia may have drawn a line in the sand when it banned further domestic helpers from working in 21 Middle Eastern countries, but changes to working conditions may prove elusive and the move may even backfire.
On the workplace end, the affected countries don't appear likely to change how they handle domestic helpers.
"From the perspective of Middle Eastern nations, it's a dime a dozen," James Dorsey, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Wednesday. "There's no shortage of personnel."
Others noted the move could even backfire.
"Attempts to protect migrant workers by deployment bans, except in exceptional circumstances such as conflict, may have the opposite effect of driving them to irregular and unsafe migration channels," Nilim Baruah, regional migration specialist at the U.N. agency International Labour Organization's (ILO) Asian office, said via email Thursday.
Indonesia has taken the step anyway, preventing further domestic helpers from taking jobs in countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt.
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"The situation concerning our migrant workers, who were working as domestic helpers, has led to many problems such as those related to labor norms and human rights violation," Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri, Indonesia's minister of manpower, said, according to a report in the state-run Antara News.
Saudi Arabia's decision to execute two Indonesian domestic helpers on murder charges angered the Southeast Asian nation, which said it wasn't given notice before the beheadings were carried out. One of the issues domestic helpers in the region face is that their work often isn't covered by existing labor protection rules governing factors including the number of hours worked and living conditions.
Out of a total of around 4.02 million Indonesian migrant workers in 2013, around 1.33 million were based in the Middle East and around 1.06 million of those were in Saudi Arabia, according to Indonesian government data. In that year, out of around $7.42 billion in remittances, around $2.18 billion came from the Middle East, the data show.