ABU DHABI // Fewer Filipina maids are being hired since a minimum wage was imposed, recruiters have revealed.
The Philippine government set the monthly salary at US$400 (Dh1,469) - almost double the wage set by other countries.
Employers now favour maids from Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.
"When I tell them they should pay $400 for a Filipina maid, employers turn their backs on me," said Juliet Lasalita, manager of a recruitment agency in Al Ain.
"Employers are not willing to pay the amount for a first-timer, or one who does not have any experience in domestic work."
Her agency used to recruit more than 100 Filipinas a month. But this has plummeted since last month.
"We had fewer than 20," she said. "People should understand that employers here usually hire two to four domestic workers and cannot afford to pay $400 to each one."
An employee at a recruitment agency in Abu Dhabi said 16 Filipinas were hired last month compared with about 50 a month before.
"For Filipinos, we've set Dh1,500 for those with experience, and Dh1,200 for first timers," she said. "But we're hiring more Indonesians and Sri Lankans because employers can afford to pay them."
India set a Dh1,100 minimum wage for domestic staff in the UAE, Indonesia Dh800, Sri Lanka Dh825 and Bangladesh Dh750. Nepal requires a minimum wage of Dh900 and has banned women under 30 from working in the Arabian Gulf.
"There is pressure for recruitment agencies to comply with the $400 minimum wage," said Emmanuel Geslani, an overseas recruitment consultant in Manila.
"Since November more than 50 agencies have been suspended or had their licences cancelled."
He expects a 70 per cent drop in Filipino housemaids coming to the Middle East, particularly to the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
"The housemaid contracts state $400 but, in reality, the maids are not being paid $400 when they arrive," Mr Geslani said.
In November last year, 63 agencies in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and 50 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates signed an agreement on pay and conditions with the Philippine association of manpower agencies.
A reform package from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in December 2006 required household staff to be paid a monthly minimum wage of $400, to be at least 23 and not be required to pay placement fees.
"It's too early to tell at this point if agencies are complying with the $400 minimum wage," said Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai. "But we've noticed they are now being cautious after the signing of the agreement and the adverse consequences, such as sanctions against them. They're not as aggressive as before."
In 2011 about 1,800 household workers left the Philippines compared with 1,400 from October last year to January this year, he added.
Delia Palomar, assistant labour attache in Abu Dhabi, said it was too early to tell if there had been a drop in maids' deployment.
"We've been interviewing runaway workers and assisting them in preparing their sworn statements," she said.