Problems of Migrant Workers in the Middle East A Case Study of Return Female Migrants in Sri Lanka

C. Mahanama, T. M. S. P. K. Thennakoon


There is overwhelming evidence that the increase in labour migration from SriLanka to the Middle East (ME) was due to the rapid development of economic andsocial activities in oil exporting countries. Of a total of 248, 096 of Sri Lankans whohad migrated for employments there, 247, 119 had gone to the ME. The number offemale migrants has increased significantly over the last three decades. Approximatelyhalf of the estimated 214 million international migrants worldwide were females. In SriLanka, women migrants have increased for the period during 1996-2009 with theexception of 2008 where male comprised 51 percent of the total migrants. Thecontribution of formal foreign employment remittances to Sri Lankan economy wasLKR Million 382, 801 in 2009. Migration also alleviates unemployment and incomedeficiency among the poorer segments of Sri Lanka‟s population. Nevertheless,domestic women workers in ME are subjected to abuse, violence, salary discriminationsand inhuman working conditions. Limited research has been undertaken to identifyproblems of domestic women workers in ME. The objectives of this study were to;identify the problems faced by female migrants, examine the reasons for the identifiedproblems and identify the institutional intervention in the prevention of problems. Atotal of 60 female returnees including 39 from Kuliyapitiya West Divisional SecretariatDivision and 21returnees who had come to complain their problems to ForeignEmployment Bureau were selected for the study. The overall findings highlight that,83% of female migrants have been suffering from mental and physical harassment andsalary discriminations. They have also been deceived by job agents regarding theworkload and salaries. The study further revealed that the problems were highlydependent on migrant‟s age, gender, ethnicity, education level and pre-migrationtraining.

Key words: Gender, Middle East, Female migrants, Returnees


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