Mother-Care Centres: a viable alternative for Middle East jobs


by Professor Chandima Gomes

Universiti Putra Malaysia

No matter what race, religion or social class you belong to, the news of Rizana’s beheading may definitely have brought tears to your eyes. Even in Malaysia, many of my students who read my Facebook said that the news has sent tremors in their spinal cords. We voice at full volume that our mothers and sisters should not be exported to Middle East for cheap labour. However, we need to address the root causes of our ladies going there, irrespective of the constant flow of news regarding ill treatment to housemaids, including torture, rape and even death at the hands of Arabic house lords.

It is an irony that while a maid in a Colombo middle class society is offered Rs. 15,000 to 20,000 + food and accommodation, these days, many of the poor class opt to go to the Middle East for a mere USD 150-200. Recent sociological surveys reveal that the social stigma of being a maid in local society prompts these people to seek foreign jobs, irrespective of the risk of being ill-treated and even tortured. It is almost impossible to change these societal norms overnight. Hence, we should look for alternative and productive ways of catering to all ends without hurting the dignity of any party.

At present, in the bulk of urban society, both husband and wife are employed. While immensely contributing to the productivity of the country, such practices inevitably gives rise to a few family glitches as well. One of the burning issues encountered by today’s working parents is the leaving of pre-school kids at home and picking- up (and then caring). School kids cannot survive by their own. This issue has become a family dilemma among many parents. Sometimes this problem leads to unhappy family life, conflicts with relatives and even divorce in extreme cases. There are numerous young mothers and fathers who have developed diabetes, high blood pressure and migraine due to the psychological stress caused by this problem.

Every parent would like to see their kids in good hands when they cannot personally attend to them. Now, imagine an air-conditioned building with one large hall, two bedrooms, washroom and a kitchen. May be a small garden as well. Five trained care-mothers well trained in handling kids. Say that there are 25 kids so that each block of five kids is taken care of by one care-mother. Let’s call it a Mother-Care Centre. Would you like your kid to be one of them while you are at work? Ok, let’s have all-time Internet at the building with few web cams, so that you can check how your kid is getting on with the environment, when you have time to switch on your skype. There will be at least 50,000 parents in Sri Lanka who would like to pay Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 to acquire this service. If the fee is to be lowered, then we can replace AC by fans. One can very easily estimate the number of such centres required for the country by analysing the statistics of employed parent. The figure may reach over 10,000 which makes the number of care-mothers over 50,000.

Let’s recruit women who seek Middle East jobs due to poverty as care-mothers. Give them a pre-work training of one month in child care and let them work as care-mothers. Let’s pay them Rs. 20,000 per month. Good title and good job. Once they start working, let’s give them continuous professional training during their free time; English Language, child care, first aid, basic IT skills, little bit of global geography, international customs and greetings in foreign languages. Within one year we will have over 50,000 ladies who will be suitable for good care-taker jobs in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore etc. Of course, if Middle East wants these skilled professionals, they have to pay the price: may be USD 1500 + good accommodation + free and abiding to their laws. As they leave for foreign jobs we can recruit more people and train.

Such ventures will be greatly be benefitted from government intervention. However, such can be launched as profitable private business ventures as well, even without having any support from the government. Thus, take this as an open invitation to the business community in Sri Lanka. Let’s earn money while giving some dividends to the nation as well.

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