Despite calls by various pressure groups to end the practice of sending Sri Lankan housemaids to the Middle Eastern countries, the number of women departed seeking to be employed as housemaids in 2012 increased by 10,735 to 118,235 in 2012, the latest Central Bank Annual Report showed.
Being the largest manpower category headed off for foreign employment in 2012, housemaids account for 42.3 percent of the total departures, up from 40.9 percent in 2011.
In 2012, the total number of departures for foreign employment rose by 6.3 percent year-on-year to 279,482. Apart from the housemaid category, increases were also seen in clerical and related fields, middle level and professional categories.
According to the Central Bank Annual Report, the Middle Eastern countries continued to be the major market for Sri Lankan labour in 2012.
“Departures to these countries accounted for 94.4 percent of the total migrants in 2012, which mainly consisted of housemaids.
Four Middle Eastern countries, namely, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE together accounted for 84.3 percent of total migrant workers in 2012, compared with 80.3 percent in 2011.”
Following the recent brutal beheading of Sri Lankan housemaid Rizanna Nafeek, various pressure groups have called to end the practice of sending Sri Lankan women to the Middle Eastern countries as domestics.
In response, the government said they will be gradually phasing out the practice but urged that they cannot stop it overnight.
As the number one foreign exchange earner, Sri Lanka received US $ 5.98 billion by way of remittances in 2012.
Meanwhile, the pressure is also mounting from hard line Sinhala Buddhist groups urging the government to stop sending Sri Lankan women to Islamic countries governed by the Sharia law.