ABU DHABI // A proposal by recruitment agencies to bar illiterate Filipinas from working as domestic staff in Saudi Arabia could also apply to those deployed to the UAE, a recruitment expert said.
The Philippine Association of Service Exporters (Pasei), which represents 650 agencies, this month called on the Philippine overseas employment authorities to consider the proposal.
"Why will you send someone who does not know how to read or write, let alone speak English to a country with a different culture?" said Victor Fernandez, the group's president.
"Check the Philippine consulate in Dubai. There may be underaged women from Mindanao who do not know how to read or write."
The Philippine government requires expatriate domestic staff to be at least 23 years old, receive a US$400 (Dh1,469) monthly minimum wage and not pay any placement fee.
Mr Fernandez said uneducated women lacked self-confidence and were vulnerable to abuse.
"Our proposal serves as a protective mechanism," he said.
The Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, attached to the consulate, has not received reports or complaints of illiterate maids, said Delmer Cruz, the labour attache in Dubai.
Officials said Filipina domestic workers being sheltered at the labour-office refuge in Abu Dhabi and Dubai can read and write. Upon arrival they are asked to fill out an information sheet.
"I agree that we should restrict illiterate maids from working in the UAE," Mr Cruz said. "But we presume that those who seek overseas jobs are high school graduates.
"They go through a pre-departure orientation seminar where they are taught basic spoken Arabic and the Arab culture."
Maids also undergo household training at centres accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Mr Cruz said.
But Mr Fernandez said there were many cases of uneducated applicants who brought "chaperones" to the seminars to assist them.