Cooperation for Domestic Workers Recruitment: Saudi Arabia and India


The Ministry of Labour is interested in enhancing cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia on the issue of Domestic Service Workers (“DSW”) to secure their rights in both the countries and hence the recently concluded agreement (“Agreement”) between the countries. Saudi Arabia is facing acute shortage of maids. The agreement signed between two countries would remain in force for five years. There are 2.8 million Indian workers in Saudi Arabia and Indians form the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom. Of the around 500,000 domestic workers, mostly working as maids, helpers, drivers and cleaners, around 10 per cent are women. This was the first time India has entered into a labour cooperation pact with Saudi Arabia. A committee of senior officials from both countries will monitor the implementation of the pact to straighten out any difficulties. The agreement also includes putting specific conditions for accepting domestic workers, the report said. The article focusses on the agreement signed and the additional information related to expatriates to the country.

A. Emigration Act

The Emigration Act, 1983 (“Emigration Act”), seeks to safeguard the interests and ensure the welfare of emigrants. Only the recruiting agents registered with the Ministry of External Affairs are eligible as per the Act to conduct the business of recruitment for overseas employment and they are required to obtain proper Registration Certificates (RC) from the Protector General of Emigrants. As per section 8 of the Emigration Act, Protector General of the Emigrants or officials higher than the Protector of the Emigrants to be the registering authority for the purpose. The Ministry of External Affairs, administers the Emigration Act through the eight offices of Protector of Emigrants (POEs). The offices are located at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Chandigarh, Cochin, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. Additionally, no recruiting agent shall collect from the worker the service charges more than the equivalent of his wages for forty-five days as offered under the employment contract, subject to a maximum of twenty thousand rupees, in respect of the services provided and shall issue a receipt to that worker for the amount collected in this regard.

B. Documentation for Emigration

Documents required for Semi-Skilled Workers

Semi-skilled individuals who seek emigration clearance directly from the Protectors of Emigrants (and not through Recruiting Agents) are required to produce the following documents in original for scrutiny and return:

1) Passport valid for a minimum period of six months with valid visa.

2) Employment contract from foreign employer duly attested by the Indian Mission.

3) Challan towards deposit of prescribed fee.

4) Valid Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Policy

Documents required for Unskilled Workers

Unskilled workers and women (not below 30 years of age) seeking employment abroad as housemaids/ domestic workers shall continue to furnish (in original) the following documents at the time of obtaining emigration clearance:

1) Passport valid for a minimum period of six months with valid Visa.

2) Work agreement from the foreign employer duly attested by the Indian Mission and signed by employer and employee or Permission letter from the concerned Indian Mission/ Post.

3) Challan towards deposit of prescribed fee.

4) Valid Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Policy

5) Approval of the Ministry, if the female worker is below 30 years of age.

C. The Terms of the Agreement

The Indian and Saudi Arabian governmental counterparts  have agreed on following important terms to govern the labour relationship of DSW on the subject:


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(1) Definition of Domestic Service Workers: As the employees whose job is wholly or mainly to do domestic work in a dwelling that a household uses mainly to live in and will include-gardener, drivers of motor vehicles and people to take care of children, aged, sick and the disabled. The definition is not exhaustive.

(2) Recruitment cost and agencies: Only licensed recruitment agencies registered with respective governments or offices in the companies are allowed to do such recruitment. Recruitment cost should be controlled.

(3) Employment through Standard Contracts: Adoption of a standard contract for DSW and the same shall be binding on the –employer, domestic workers and Saudi and Indian recruiting agencies.

(4) Right to recourse to competent Authorities: Agreement includes granting the said terms to the parties in case of any contractual dispute. It also includes taking legal recourse against recruitment agencies or violation of laws in either country.

(5) No unauthorized Deductions from Salary: Such deductions are not permissible. 

D. Saudi Arabia obligations under the Agreement

(1) Authenticity of the Employment Contract: Saudi Arabia would ensure the authenticity of the employment contract, which would provide among other things the rights and obligations of the employer and DSW and the terms of the employment. Additionally, also ensure the implementation of employment contract.

(2) Dispute Resolution: The Saudi Arabia counterpart would assist in speedier dispute resolution of the matter before appropriate authorities.

(3) Opening of Bank Account: The Saudi Arabia counterpart would facilitate the opening of the bank account and expedite the process to enable the employer to put the monthly salary in bank account.

(4) 24 Hour helpline: Domestic workers to get access to 24 hour helpline.

(5) Exit visas: Ensure the issuance of exit visas in the following cases:

  • Emergency
  • Completion of contract
  • As the need arises

E. Obligations of India under the Agreement

The second party i.e. Saudi Arabia to ensure the following:

(1) Health Requirement: The Indian counterpart would ensure that the DSW recruited are of fir medical condition by getting them examined by reliable medical centers in India. There is an explicit mention of absence of communicable diseases.

(2) Clean background: Indian authorities to ensure that the recruited DSW does not have derogatory or criminal background. India would ensure verification of the employment contract entered by the parties through its Indian Embassy.

(3) Observation of Ethics and Regulations: DSW will abide by the Saudi Laws, moral, ethics and customs while residing in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The dispute arising of this Agreement is to be settled through diplomatic channels. The Agreement between the countries can be terminated by two months notice prior to expiry.


Every year hundreds of thousands of Indians emigrate in search of job. The effect of economic liberalization in India is visible on labour migration too. One of the striking features of labour migration from India is that more than 90 percent of the total outflow is to the Middle East. The said Agreement is a welcome move for the vulnerable section and tends to protect their rights as well as protect their interest by providing for speedy dispute resolution and concerns such as issuance of visa in case of dire need to return to home country.

Source of Information on Documentation & Emigration:

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