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More than 58,000 domestic helpers and drivers have absconded from work in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, figures indicate. According to statistics compiled by the labour ministry, 31,700 domestic helpers ran away from the homes of their employers. Recruitment agencies estimate that the absconding caused families losses of around SAR 300 million (USD 80 million).
Local newspaper Al Eqtisadiya reported that the helpers constituted 54% of the 58,615 foreigners who left without informing their employers while the remaining 46% were drivers. Employers in the capital Riyadh were most affected, followed by the Eastern Province and the Makkah area while northern region were least affected.
The ministry said that around 500,000 expatriates, including labourers, and representing around 6% of the total labour force did not report to work last year.
Around 244,000 left Saudi Arabia, but opted not to return even though they had the necessary visas.
Several Saudi families have complained that the absconding phenomenon caused them serious concerns, saying that it often occurred after the three-month probation period.
After the three months, the recruitment agencies are no longer required to either recruit substitute helpers for the families or give them back the fees they had paid.
Several agents said that helpers were often lured to work for other families with promises of higher salaries and more time off.
“Most of the domestic helpers who abscond are Ethiopians, followed by Indonesians, Filipinos and Sri-Lankans,” Khalid Al Azhari, a Riyadh-based recruitment agency employee, said. “Many of the helpers are abroad for the first time and face issues,” he said.