The flow of young Ethiopian women as migrant workers throughout the Middle East and the Gulf States is one of the largest female migrations in the county’s history. The number has increased dramatically since 1990 due to an increase in rural and urban poverty and other factors.
Reports show that at least 460,000 Ethiopian workers were in the middle east in the year 2013. While some Ethiopians work legally in the Middle East, others travel without visas despite having to cross through war-torn Yemen and risk a dangerous and illegal boat trip across the Gulf of Aden.
But this is not the only challenge these domestic workers have to face. Many studies have shown that many Ethiopian women working in domestic service in the Middle East endure severe abuse, including physical and sexual assault, denial of salary, sleep deprivation, and passport confiscation. Which eventually led to the Ethiopian government banning domestic workers from taking up jobs in the middle east. But after passing a new law to guard against the ill-treatment of its citizens overseas, the ban was lifted.
In a recent development, it was reported that Saudi Arabia will start hiring domestic workers from Ethiopia this month. It is expected that there will be a huge demand for Ethiopian domestic workers because the recruitment cost is cheaper compared to hiring Filipino and Sri Lankan housemaids whose recruitment cost is 130,000 birr and 150,000 birr respectively.
The recruitment cost for Ethiopian housemaids is close to 60,000 birr. The governments of Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia have reportedly reached an agreement to make the minimum monthly salary of Ethiopian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia 1,000 Saudi Riyal (around 7000 birr).