Ejo #7 – Please Meet Jumeirah Jane (And Her Filipina Maid)

Hello. David and I were out of the UAE for a while which explains why there have been no witty missives from me in your inboxes detailing the zaniness of life over here. I was in Australia for six weeks to visit family and attend a couple of weddings. It was lovely to see everyone but to be honest, towards the end I was itching to get back here, back to what David and I have made our ‘home’.

 

Today, I’d like to talk to you about two very different ‘types’ of people that exist in Dubai. In fact they co-exist in a very symbiotic way. Allow me, first, to introduce you to Jumeirah Jane. This creature is married, usually with a couple of young children and a husband who works in business and earns a boatload of money. Of course Jane’s husband works very long hours and is often away on business, leaving Jane to her own devices. He also leaves her a Platinum American Express card. Or two. I’m sure every major city in the world has their own version of this magnificent specimen. In Melbourne, she’d be found in Toorak. In Dubai she lives in the beachside area known as Jumeirah (hence the name).

 

Jane lives in an emormous villa with a swimming pool and perhaps a tennis court. She drives a Range Rover (because it’s safer) to drop the kids off at school, and a two door Jaguar coupe (because it’s sexier) to get to her yoga classes, tennis lessons and hair appointments. When Jane wants to socialise (with others of her kind) during the day, she heads down to the Lime Tree Cafe in, of course, Jumeirah, where she and the other Janes congregate and partake in carrot & beetroot juices (to keep the skin glowing, naturally). Should Jane occasionally (god forbid) indulge in a piece of (organic) lemon slice she’ll immediately call Rob, her personal trainer to see if he can squeeze her in for a session that afternoon before the kids get home from school. Because looking good is a full time occupation for Jane and she needs to be able to fit into that new Givenchy dress her husband bought her for the business dinner they’re hosting tonight at the villa.

 

Sounds like a fun life, doesn’t it? Jane’s got it all. She has to be happy, right? Or maybe not. Maybe she’d give it all up for a husband who not only paid the credit card bills, but who paid her attention. Because statistics show that a number of Janes are actually looking for affection outside of the institution of marriage. In fact, a number of personal trainers (remember Rob?) are claiming that they are involved in affairs with the women of Jumeirah. A recent newspaper article uncovered several trainers who are either having affairs (sometimes multiple), or who claim to have been seduced and propositioned by their clients. And it makes sense. If Jane isn’t getting enough loving from her husband, who better to develop a relationship with than the man who sees her at her most stripped down – vulnerable, semi-naked and sweaty. Some of the women in the article even said that their husbands were aware of it and turned a blind eye. But you would think that if Jane was content, if she was really happy, she wouldn’t be looking for love (or lust) outside of the marriage.

 

By the same token, if she felt good about herself she probably wouldn’t spend as much time and money as she does on botox, fake tans, teeth whitening, chemical peels, waxes, liposuction, massages, manicures, pedicures, hair extensions, Pilates, facials and accupuncture. To within an inch of her life. On a regular basis. And THAT is what makes up Jane’s day to day schedule. I get the distinct impression actually that Jane’s life is soulless and empty. But gee, she looks good!! The only time Jane spends with her kids is driving them to school in the morning, and that’s more for show than anything else. Why else would she do it with a full face of (Shiseido) make up, blow dried hair and wearing freshly pressed, white Dolce & Gabbana capri pants and Louis Vuitton wedges. Not that she’d admit it, but a lot of effort and pressure goes into being Jane. Even so, she wouldn’t dream of venturing out to pick up the kids at home time – the traffic is unbearable at that time of day. No, she’ll have someone else do it for her.

 

Which, quite nicely segues into the next type of person I’d like to introduce you to. Please make the acquaintance of Mary the Maid (this moniker, unlike Jumeirah Jane, doesn’t actually exist – I made it up for the purposes of this story). Almost invariably from the Phillipines. In fact I think the actual job description on their visas is “Lowly Fillipino Maid”, which goes some way towards explaining the vacant stares and sad faces of the women occupying these positions. And there is no shortage of them. It seems to be rather fashionable (the ‘done thing’ if you will) for every family here (expat and Emirati alike) to own a maid. And yes, I know I said ‘own’ instead of ‘have’ or ‘hire’. Because they really are, generally, treated like slave labour. Sadly, as with the construction workers, no matter how bad things are here, it is still better than back home so they stay.

 

To give you an idea of the kind of treatment they are subjected to, a new law was recently passed in Dubai decreeing that only households with two or more bedrooms could employ a live-in maid. Just think about that for a second. Prior to the law being passed, and obviously to the extent that the governement saw the need to implement it, families living in one bedroom and studio homes were employing live-in maids. I don’t know where they were sleeping, I don’t know where they were changing in and out of clothes, and I don’t know where they had their ‘personal space’ but I for one am very happy with the new law. Actually, it’s considered so normal here to have a live-in maid that people actually have asked us if we planned on getting one. I, personally, couldn’t think of anything worse than being the ‘boss’ of a stranger living in my house. And please don’t get me wrong, I am not against having a maid per se (in fact, in my mid-twenties, the share household I was in often procured the services of a maid on a weekly basis). I’m just not planning on getting one to live with me simply because ‘everyone else is doing it’ or because it’s so dirt cheap.

 

There are actually two types of Mary the Maid. There are the Marys that are abused and taken advantage of, and there are the Marys that are not. I honestly believe that Jumeirah Jane doesn’t treat Mary badly. In fact, she probably thinks she treats her better than is required. She gives Mary a room of her own (perhaps even her own bathroom), she gives her a day off once a week and only asks her to work 12 hour days. And of course, she even gives her a few extra dirhams in her paypacket when Mary’s picked up the kids from school that week, and when she has to look after them for a couple of days while Mr. and Mrs. Jane go to Morocco for the weekend. And yes, this actually is a well treated maid. She has windows in her bedroom. Lucky girl.

 

I have heard of instances of maids having their salary withheld, of not being allowed to own a mobile phone, of not being allowed to socialise with other Fillipino’s (even on their days off – which sometimes do not exist), working 15-18 hour days every day, and yes, being given rooms with no windows. As a matter of fact, our apartment has maid’s quarters, which incidentally does not include a view of anything except four walls, a floor and a ceiling. We call it a ‘study’ – we use the ‘study’ for storage and it’s barely big enough for that. There are families in our building though that have live-in maids and I can only imagine that this is where they are being kept. On the more extreme side of the abuse spectrum, I have heard of Mary the Maid being raped by the husband and by teenage sons living at home, regularly beaten by the wife, denied food and water, and being locked in their rooms. I’ve heard that their passports are hidden so they can’t go home and they can’t run away. There really are some horror stories out there – and for all this, an average maid’s salary would be about 1200dhs a month (about AUD$120 a week). It’s not a lot to live on.

 

Many of these maids have husbands and children of their own back in the Phillipines and desperately need to hold onto their jobs to send money back, so they put up with a lot of crap. There is absolutely no way they could afford to bring Mr. Mary and the children here to live here as a family. I often spot Mary the Maid in the malls, trailing behind her Jane. Mary’s carrying six shopping bags (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès) and pushing the double pram, children screaming and throwing their toys to the floor. Jane, in the meantime, struts ahead, chatting on her Blackberry. The only bag she’s holding is the latest 8000dhs Dior “It” bag. For me, it really is as upsetting as the plight of the construction workers, if not worse because of the personal abuse they must endure.

 

I hope I’m not being too cynical of my view of Jane and Mary. I really am just telling it as I see it. They say that this city hardens you but I do try to keep my fresh (and yes, sometimes naive) perspective in place. Sometimes that is a little difficult. Next time, I promise you something more lighthearted.

 

Til then Chryss (aka Burj Betty)

 

15 comments

  1. Hi there Chryss
    Your take on the maid situation was quite interesting and at times a little funny however I think you have under estimated many of the Janes that are living in the UAE that have live in maids. I agree that what you have written is true in some cases, however on the whole you would be surprised how many live in maids are welcome not only in the homes of people but into their families.
    We have a live in maid that has her own room (yes it is a small room, however we have furnished it so there is ample storage and space for her to sleep and have a quite and private place to herself, with private ensuite). We have opened our family and our hearts to our maid and she is very much a part of the family. Her main role is to be at the house for my children after school when I am at work and to take care of the animals when we are on vacation. Yes, she irons, cleans and cooks, but does so with pride and honour as she is now a bread winner in her family and has the ability to send money to her son. Where they come from there is absolutely no opportunity for her to do this. In her eyes, it is better to be able to skype her son everyday and send money home to him for his schooling and general care, rather than be with him on a daily basis and have no money for food, clothes or schooling. Her daily duties are no different to what mine were before she came along, only that she gets paid for it, where it was my ‘duty’ to do so for nothing. As our maid is part of our family, she enjoys everything that we do. Her role in fact is much like having your mother live with you and she stays home and does the washing and cooking while you go off to work.
    Your story above is written from only your point of view, a point of view that doesn’t really count as you do not have a live in maid work for you. Do you have a maid at all? I don’t see why you are so reluctant to open your house and your heart and have a maid live with you. Our maid has full access to everything we own and we have given her a computer so she can daily skype home and keep in contact with her little one.
    She loves living with us and has been very grateful to have the opportunity to earn money for her family.
    Maybe you should gather facts from people who actually have live in maids and perhaps talk to the maids to see how they feel about their circumstances.
    I am not denying that there have been some terrible horror stories on how some maids are treated, but on the whole, it may surprise you that they are having a wonderful time and have developed a sense of worth that they would never have known without the opportunity to work as a live in maid.
    The other factor re: live in maids, is that in this country, it is illegal to have the services of a maid without the prior agreement of that maid’s sponsor. We brought our maid out from the Philippines and sponsored her and paid for her visa and health insurance etc. Under these conditions, she comes as a live in maid and is our responsibility. In some cases where people do not let their maids out, is because they are participating in extra activities for money that are illegal in this country. Some maids are used to this behaviour from their own country but do not realise that it is a criminal act in this country. So for the protection of their maids and of themselves against legal action, they do not let the maid out after having already caught them doing things that are illegal.
    Having a maid has given me the time needed to work, study and have extra time with my kids. You will find that many Janes are using the spare time for their family, not for themselves and for having affairs!
    So yes, I think you are being too critical and do not possess enough facts to hold even a general view of the subject. How many maids have you actually spoken to concerning this? What percentage?
    The average salary for a maid is 1500AED per month plus one return ticker per year to her home. This includes all of her living expenses at home, not having to pay for any food, electricity, internet, pool & gym membership etc. etc. Do you know what 1500aed is equivalent in their home country?
    You totally miss the fact that the maid industry for the Philippines is one of their largest money earners and that if it wasn’t for families taking in full time maids, many families back in the Philippines would suffer.
    Cheers
    Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks for taking the time to read my ejo. I also appreciate the thought and effort that you took to respond.

      Congratulations on having a live-in maid. I’m sure that, as a working parent, doing so has made life a whole lot easier for you. And hey, why not? At 1500dhs per month, it’s a steal. That’s less than the average cost of a night in a hotel room in this great city, so I understand that it’s great value for you to have someone live in and do all your household chores. You ask why I’m reluctant to have a live in maid? Well Lisa, I don’t need one. Simple as that. I don’t have kids, and my husband and I are pretty tidy anyway. We do however, from time to time, employ the services of a maid to help us out – a few hours a month. So, no, I don’t oppose using maid services, whether they be live-in, or on a casual basis.

      As a matter of fact, it may surprise you to know that many (many) years ago, I was a live in nanny/maid for 12 months in the US. Officially my title was “au pair” however I also cleaned, washed, ironed and cooked for the kids. So it’s not as if I’m coming at this with absolutely no idea, as you insinuate. Please don’t assume that I would ever write and publish anything without some background knowledge of the subject. Yes, my experiences would have been completely different to those which I describe in my ejo. However, something that I can relate to is that I did actually become part of the family that employed me. In fact, many (many) years later I am still friends with both the parents and the kids – now all grown up. (Shout out to the wonderful B family!)

      So, if you are also making your maid feel like she’s a part of your family (and let’s see if you’re still in touch with her in 13 years time), then kudos to you. As I very clearly stated in my ejo, I don’t believe that all maids are mistreated. But even you cannot deny that some are. And that is my point. Let’s not turn a blind eye. I have done plenty of research into this topic and if you’d care to do the same (just Google “abused Filipino maid in Dubai”) you’ll find that it is such a problem that several members of the government in the Philippines wanted to ban sending maids to the Middle East entirely, because of the widespread sexual, physical and mental abuse they were being subjected to.

      Whilst it’s clear to me that you and your family treat your maid well, please don’t try to convince me that all other employers do the same. It was the Philippines government that enforced the minimum wage of 1500dhs per month. If it wasn’t for that law, you could have your maid for far less, say 900dhs. Tell me Lisa, if you could get away with paying that, would you? You could still justify it to yourself by saying that it’s better than what she could get back home. But does that make it right? Did you have a live-in maid before you moved to Dubai? If not, why not? Was it because it would cost too much?

      You tell me my story is written only from my point of view; a view that according to you “doesn’t really count”. I find this fascinating. If you can so easily denigrate the opinion of an educated professional that you don’t even know, I can’t begin to imagine how you’d react to your maid if she ever had anything to say that you didn’t like. Think about that for a minute Lisa. Seriously. Either way, of course it’s written from my point of view. It’s not a newspaper article, it’s an opinion piece. And no, I’m not a journalist. But I still write with integrity. I have actually spoken to a number of maids about their working conditions – yes, the maids that come to clean my house. Because we are not regulars the agency tends to send a different woman every time and what shocks me, every time, is how shocked they are when we treat them like human beings instead of animals. I once raised my arm to point to an air conditioning vent and the girl flinched as though expecting to be struck. I once persuaded another cleaning lady to share our lunch, and she took her plate into the toilet to eat. The toilet! It took five minutes of both me and my husband begging her to come out, and even then she wouldn’t eat with us. She didn’t feel deserving to be at the same table. I WEEP for the experiences that she’s had that would scar her in this way.

      You say you treat your maid well? Please, keep doing so. But don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone does the same.

      Finally Lisa, I’d like to comment on your interesting point that some people lock their maids up for their own protection, so that they don’t engage in “illegal activities” (ie trying to supplement the meagre salary they are getting paid). Do you honestly think that’s OK? I’ll tell you what I think. I think it’s imprisonment. I think it’s a disgusting breach of a basic human right and I think it amounts to slavery, regardless of whether or not they are being paid a salary.

      Thanks for your comments Lisa. Regardless of what you may think, I am in possession of several facts (perhaps more than you, with your rather limited viewpoint and experience) which allow me to feel pretty good about sticking to my guns on this one.
      Cheers
      Chryss

  2. Hi Chryss,
    That projectile dummy you spat out at Lisa’s comment hasn’t landed yet! Your opinion about maid’s and particularly Filipino’s is very typical of someone who has lived here a short while. My wife and I had similar views to yourself after 2 years of living in Dubai. Now after 6 years our views have changed completely. My guess is that we start by focussing on one particular group (the abused house maids) and form our views because our civilized upbringing naturally reacts to these disgusting abuse stories.
    After 6 years here, employing 3 housemaids, employing 30+ Filipino staff in 2 businesses and listening to the numerous other groups of employers, my attitude is very different. We have a saying amongst the Western ex-pats “Be very careful to extend your hand, you may lose your arm’.
    I don’t need to elaborate here with individual stories (there are so many), but maybe your research into the problem would have been more accurate after talking to the owners of a Maids business. I know 2 owners very well and abuse is not a big issue at all. Their main problems arise from constant lying, stealing, making up stories and unreliability. There is always a reason why the home countries of these low salaried workers are in such dire economic situations. No one is holding their arm behind their back and forcing them to travel here to find a higher salary and a better life for their family. Let’s admire and thank the group who employ these housemaids for the contribution they make in improving the lives of thousands back in the home countries of their employees.

  3. Paul, if I earned 50dhs a day, I reckon I’d be forced into behaviour that I wasn’t proud of too. I have gone out with my husband for coffee and cake and paid more than 50dhs so I don’t know how you can expect a woman who has to support a family back home to get by on that amount (and having to work at least 8 hours a day to earn it – that’s PREPOSTEROUS). No, no-one is forcing them here, but if that is the only opportunity they have, you can’t blame them for taking it. It doesn’t mean that the treatment they receive here is RIGHT, simply because it’s better for them here than it is at home. That’s a pompous way to think about it. It’s a very unempathetic view of the world.

    We’ve been here nearly three years. I don’t think I’m naive and I don’t think I’m idealistic. I know how the world works – and the way it works here is unfair and uncivilised. Are you one of the people that thinks it’s OK to lock up a maid so that she doesn’t go out and find illegal work to supplement her pathetic income?? It wouldn’t surprise me. Paul, it doesn’t matter if I’m here three years or six years or thirty years – I will never think it’s OK to pay a maid the equivalent of coffee and cake for a hard day’s work. The system is the problem – and it’s people like you and Lisa who keep the system from changing.

  4. Chryss,
    Thank you for the reply…I needed a good laugh this morning! At this rate I’m sure the housemaid community will nominate you for a nobel peace prize! Everybody without a clue has recommendations, especially those in ivory towers (or air traffic control towers!) Obviously, you are a victim of higher education. This type learn so much about modern economic theory….that there is little room left in the brain for good, old common sense.
    You must understand by now the difference between what’s fair and what’s reality. We don’t set the price for coffee & cake or a day’s salary for a housemaid….the market does.
    Your comment about me being ok with locking up a maid so that she can’t go out to find illegal work, is typical of a blowhard! You have been hijacked by the most cynical and diabolical crowd ever assembled in the UAE. We’re surrounded by layabouts, bureaucrats, whiners, half-wits & mis-fits who think they know better. I’m sure your attitude won’t change, but then I’m also sure that your rants won’t change the system.
    The misguided believe the housemaid’s employer’s to be “evil”….where the reality is that the vast majority of housemaids are grateful for people like me and Lisa who provide them with the chance to be productive, have a secure home, to educate themselves (this work’s both ways), and to further improve the lives of their families. The pathetic “ivory tower” group only produce nonsense and pure, undiluted claptrap that reveals they are clueless, with no evidence that they actually understand what is going on. If they did…they certainly never bother to say anything!

  5. Paul, I’m not university educated, I don’t have a high cut job like Air Traffic Control and I don’t have a maid. But you know what I have? Empathy. I’m a low class, low waged person who feels empathy for people working for the minimum wage in conditions that sound not a lot better than slave labour. And I’m not referring to Chryss’ example here. Reading your email makes me feel sick, and sad. You make it sound as though living juuuust above the poverty line is something that should make a person grateful. Do you want your staff to lick your boots for free or do you pay them a little extra for that? Have you ever considered paying your maid MORE than the minimum wage, simply because it’s the right thing to do, to hell with industry standards? Just because it’s all you HAVE to do, doesn’t mean it makes you a good person to do it. Stop patting yourself on the back, you’ll leave bruise. You’re perpetuating sub standard working conditions only because it’s above the legal line to do so. Good for you son, you’re a real man now. Bravo. To my low slung pay grade eyes, you are the one living in an ivory tower. And you’ve painted yourself black.

  6. Mixi,
    This is the typical response of a whiner looking for someone else’s axe to grind. You choose to focus your views around the small minority who are “abused” and work in conditions that sound like slave labour. I choose to focus on the vast majority of the group who are well paid (we pay our maid AED 2500.00 basic + furnished accommodation + medical expenses + the cost of an annual return trip). In addition she works barely 5 hours per day now because my two sons are 10 & 7. I congratulate you on your “empathy” and apologize that my response makes you feel sick and sad – reality often does. The flip side of this is that I feel very sad for those who thrive on constantly playing the victim, claiming bad luck, bad circumstances, and a whole bunch of situations that are no fault of themselves. Your boot licking remark shows that education plays a vital roll in making decisions and taking actions to shape a life that you deserve.

    1. Paul, as I very clearly outlined in my original post, I don’t believe that all (or even the majority) of people who employ maids are evil. I have never believed that – and I have certainly never asserted it. But it’s foolish to claim that there aren’t people out there that do abuse maids. And my issue is with those maids, not the ones that are treated well.

      You’d also have to be foolish to think that 1500dhs or 2500dhs a month is sufficient salary for someone in this city. Of course you have to pay for her accommodation, medical expenses and travel. She would not be able to survive on that amount – period. Even at your ‘generous’ salary of 2500dhs a month, your maid earns around 80dhs a day, which is about the price of two beers down at the pub. For five hours work. Awesome.

      Sure, the market sets the price. Have a think about this though Paul: 150 years ago, the British-ruled Confederate States of the USA set the price of an African-American slave at zero. Is that alright??? Just because the market sets the price, doesn’t mean it’s OK.

      I’m no “whiner” Paul. Things are great in Dubai – for you and me and anyone else who isn’t from certain countries in Asia. For them, it’s a whole different story. One that I want to explore. But not with you, as it seems that you are just out to offend people with your superiority complex. It’s time to shut down this thread. I’ve given you plenty of opportunity to discuss this matter in an open, fair and respectful way and all you’ve done is insult me and my readers.

  7. The original blog is a stereotypical mish mash that could have been hashed together from browsing local forums where these stereotypes are often debated. I have lived here for 20 years, do not employ a maid and fail to recognise the picture you paint of Jumeriah Janes. It is a stereotype often painted but rarely found.

    As to the maids – SOME – do get badly treated for sure, but the vast majority get well treated but that would mena you have nothing controversial to blog about. I have read opinions on these stereotypes so often and no-one. including you. have anything original (or factual) to say.

    Very interested to know about your “statistics” that show JJ’s looking for affection. A hashed together article in a local rag does not a statistic make.

    BTW – as well as not employing a maid I work full time and I live in Jumeriah – just so you can stereotype me as well.

    1. Hi Gwinnie, welcome to the discussion. Gee, it sure is getting heated. Please take it easy – like I said, it’s not a journalistic article but rather an opinion piece (definition of “opinion”: a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty). I have a full time job and I don’t have the time to do in depth research but I am certainly entitled to my opinion nonetheless. Just as you are. The post was based on my observation at the time and I stick to it. There’s no need for you to be defensive because yes, it is a stereotype and probably fits very few people. It would be unrealistic to expect that I could have talked to every single maid, or every single woman living in Jumeirah, and so generalisations are inevitable. No-where did I ever say that my observations applied to EVERYONE living in Jumeirah or those working for them. I was speaking about the few that it does apply to and I won’t be faulted for that.

  8. Hi! I don’t live or work anywhere near Jumeirah, but, in my form of employment – which is luxury service based – I come into daily contact with ultra wealthy residents/families of Dubai.

    You’re description DEFINITELY fits the attitude of more than SOME (notice I said SOME) of these individuals I have come into contact with during these past 7 years. The expectations and demands made and the attitude they are made with has never ceased to keep my bottom jaw from dropping and thinking….”is this person SERIOUS”?! There have been times that I have had to remind these same clients that they are in a different country with a different culture where THEY must adapt and be respectful of the place they are in. I’ve also had many the opportunity (as an university educated outsider working in the luxury industry and making a decent living) to see the way their personal assistants have been treated.

    To offer a simplified visual description and example of what I’ve seen on more than just a few occasions: Have you’ve ever seen Dobby (the house elf that served the Malfoy family) from the Harry Potter movie? Yes, that is exactly what I’ve seen and I’m not exaggerating in the least.

    I also come into daily contact with SOME ultra wealthy residents/families from other parts of the world where I must admit I’ve seen a similar display but MUCH MUCH LESS frequently and with much less intensity than those from the U.A.E. as a whole.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your comments. Yes, the way some people act in this city, and the way they treat others is certainly a disgrace. Your personal experience of it sounds dreadful. Good for you for trying to remind them that they should act in a better manner. I think that the marginalised need someone to stand up for them, and if we don’t do it then who will? I don’t know if it will change anything, but at least we can feel a LITTLE bit better in knowing that we aren’t just sitting around watching. Thanks for reading. Chryss.

  9. I’m coming into this maid discussion fairly late. I have never lived in Dubai and have never been a maid but I do come from Southeast Asia – where having a live-in maid is extremely common. My family has, in fact, 2 maids (one who does the general cooking/cleaning and the other whose job is mainly to look after my grandmother, who suffers from dementia and can’t walk). I think people are far too quick to feel personally offended by reports that maids are often mistreated. My family doesn’t mistreat our maids; we do however place some restrictions on going out but mainly because Kuala Lumpur isn’t a particularly safe place these days.

    The horror stories that people read about all the time are true; they happen everywhere. Not just in Dubai or KL; pretty much wherever labour laws are still a little bit iffy. It has become almost second nature for many employers (female ones especially) to assume maids are akin to slaves. They may not use the word “slave”, but judging from the work the maid does – carrying shopping bags, feeding and cleaning up after toddlers, emptying potties, serving drinks round the clock – that’s pretty much what she is. It sickens me to think that many employers think this is simply “part of the job”. It also sickens me to think that you, Paul, think that we the employers should be applauded for being “noble”; sure, it’s a great thing that we’re hiring maids and giving people jobs and helping their families, but it’s not anything to scream and shout about. Most of the time we’re not contributing as much as you think. Maids are grossly underpaid (not all of them, but a good portion of them). Denying this makes you ignorant, or a blatant liar.

    On the other hand I do also believe that there is a very fine line between “treating well” and “spoiling”. One of the maids my family currently employs is extremely lazy. She does her work half-heartedly, forgets simple things we tell her (such as remembering to knock before entering our rooms!!!) and tries to weasel her way out of work all the time. Her work is generally easy, made even easier by how half-heartedly she does her chores. Because we’ve paid so much (airfare, insurance, etc) to get her to come work for us, we try to let it slide, and lecture her occasionally… but I can see how a more bad-tempered employer might end up throwing a fit (resulting in maid complaining about mistreatment?) She gets air conditioning (which is expensive, if you’ve lived in a hot country!), there are no restrictions on what she can/can’t eat (i.e. if there’s ice cream in the freezer she’s welcome to it), we occasionally buy her little gifts/souvenir items when we go out. I don’t think these are things that a live-in maid is ENTITLED to. These are just bonuses. Maids that *expect* to receive all kinds of nice things are about as annoying as inconsiderate employers.

    Thankfully it seems as though the bad extreme of maid treatment in Malaysia isn’t quite as bad as the picture you painted of Dubai, and *some* steps are being taken (although the Filipino government still found it necessary to place a restriction on Filipino maids going into Malaysia)

    1. Hi Grace, welcome to the debate – better late than never, I say. This is an ongoing issue, so I think it’s always relevant to weigh in and I think that you are particularly well placed to contribute.

      I have to thank you for your measured response, and I agree 100% with you that not all maids are saintly and perfect. Of course not. I never set out to deify them – only to point out that some (SOME) employers treat their maids disgracefully, and that is unacceptable. There are always going to be households in which the maids are actually treated with respect and like they are one the family (but then within that group you’ll always have maids that take advantage of it).

      As I’ve mentioned before my husband and I have a maid come about once a month to help keep our house clean. The women that come are very rarely happy – their passports are being held ransom and they get paid a pittance. Some have been abused. They are seen by many people as second class citizens and this is what I have a problem with, but unfortunately this is a nationwide issue in the UAE that I don’t see being fixed any time soon. I just do what I can to make each experience working for me as pleasant as it can be for the lady – and I tip generously when they do a good job (which is always).

      Anyway, thanks again Grace. It’s always good to hear people’s thoughts on the matter.
      Chryss

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