Foreign Domestic Workers: The neglected victims of the dollar crisis

Annahar also asked the owner of a domestic worker recruitment agency in Beirut how the current economic plight has affected his business.
by Nessryn Khalaf

6 March 2020 | 20:16

Source: by Annahar

  • by Nessryn Khalaf
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 6 March 2020 | 20:16

Photo shows foreign domestic workers protesting in Lebanon. (AFP)

BEIRUT: The dollar crisis in Lebanon has generated a precarious monetary reality that is harming people on different scales, from Lebanese with limited options to secure liquidity, to importers whose jobs are on the line.

However, a neglected segment of victims comprises of the foreign domestic workers residing in Lebanon whose remittances to their home countries have not only been affected, but also reduced.

Annahar asked a few of them how the fluctuating exchange rate of the Lebanese pound is affecting their salaries, and Adrika Sarkar from Bangladesh expressed nothing but dismay.

“The last time I received my salary in dollars was in September; after that, my employers insisted on paying me the same amount of $200 but at the official exchange rate of 1,500 L.L.,” Sarkar noted.

She added that since she has to transfer the money to her family in dollars, the value of her remittances has decreased drastically and her family keeps calling to ask for more money.

Dilipa Jayakody from Sri Lanka is another victim of the crisis, as she has been working in Lebanon for the past 6 years and only now has begun contemplating the necessity to seek work in a different Arab country.

“My employers are like second parents to me, and the only reason I have agreed to stay with them until my contract is terminated in June is that they promised to provide me with dollars by then,” Jayakody told Annahar.

As for Nyala Deresse from Ethiopia, not only are her employers refusing to pay her in dollars as stated in her contract, but they are also refusing to secure her salary in Lebanese pounds.

“The last time they paid me was in December, and even though I received my salary in Lebanese pounds at the exchange rate of 1,800 L.L., I was content because I needed to send money to my mother and daughter," she said.

Annahar also asked the owner of a domestic worker recruitment agency in Beirut how the current economic plight has affected his business.

“Every week, the agency receives several calls from disturbed domestic workers who are either not being paid or are receiving their salaries in Lebanese pounds at the official exchange rate, and while we cannot force their employers to pay them in dollars, we are doing our best to resolve their disputes,” he explained.

He also added that many agencies in Lebanon are enduring losses right now because no foreign worker wants to come work in a household to earn in Lebanese pounds and employers cannot afford to pay in dollars either, and he may even shut down his agency in the next few months if this situation persists.

“Affording to pay for help at home from a foreign worker has become a luxury not only to the middle classes but also to the upper classes, for they too are struggling with the rigorous banking restrictions on the withdrawal of dollars,” he added.

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