COLOMBO • Sri Lanka will gradually stop sending housemaids abroad, mainly to the Middle East, because of rights abuses, social costs and a local labour shortage, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne has said.
Sri Lanka's expatriate workers, mainly maids and unskilled labourers, send back remittances that help earn around US$7 billion (S$9.6 billion) a year for the US$82.2 billion economy.
Mr Senaratne said President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed a committee to study strategies to reduce the numbers gradually and finally reach a halt.
"We want to discourage the housemaids category in the foreign employment because the social cost is very high," he said.
Rights abuses and social costs due to rapes, drug addiction and child abuse in many families of maids, and a local labour shortage, have prompted the government to take such a decision, he said.
The number of departures for foreign employment declined by 12.4 per cent last year to 263,307, partly due to an economic slowdown in the Middle East. In 2013, about 1,650 Sri Lankan maids complained of being physically or sexually abused by their employers, mainly in the Middle East, the latest data from the Foreign Employment Bureau showed.