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India and Saudi Arabia have signed a landmark agreement on protection of the rights of domestic Indian workers in the kingdom and agreed to work on another accord to streamline ties between employers and the 2.8 million Indian workers in Saudi Arabia.
The Agreement on Labour Cooperation for Domestic Service Workers Recruitment was signed by Indian Overseas Affairs Minister, Vayalar Ravi, and visiting Saudi Arabian Labour Minister, Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih.
Ravi said the agreement on domestic workers' protection would help streamline the labour market. "This will go a long way in protecting the interests of workers..., and for that the Standard Employment Contract should also be finalised at the earliest," he said.
The Standard Employment Contract would seek to govern the relations between the employer and the employee by ensuring agreed wage, proper working hours, paid holidays, dispute settlement mechanism, the minister said earlier.
Fakeih, referring to India as "an important and active partner in more than one level", said the agreement was "in the context of the protection of the rights and regulating the labour relations between employers and employees in consonance with international regulations and treaties".
"This important agreement is the result of the excellent relations between the two countries," he said, adding that in case of any possible difficulties arising, the two sides have agreed to set up a joint committee of senior officials who would meet periodically and alternatively in either country.
According to an official statement, the agreement protects the rights of both the employers and domestic workers and regulates the contractual relation between them. In addition, it ensures authenticity and implementation of the employment contract, takes measures against recruitment agencies who violate laws, and establishes a mechanism to provide 24-hour assistance to the domestic sector workers.
Of the 500,000 Indian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, mostly working as maids, helpers, drivers and cleaners, around 10% are women. There are 2.8 million Indian workers in Saudi Arabia, and Indians form the largest expatriate community in the kingdom.
While India has signed labour MoUs with various countries in the Gulf, this is the first time that India has entered into an agreement on labour cooperation with Saudi Arabia. "This is also the first step towards a Comprehensive Agreement on Labour Cooperation covering the entire spectrum of Indian workers in Saudi Arabia," said the statement.