Several Japanese and Chinese technology companies have proposed exporting robots that can do house chores to cater for the growing number of Saudi families that cannot find housemaids in the local market.
Saudi families are struggling to recruit housemaids after many Asian and African countries stopped sending their citizens to work in the Kingdom in the wake of several crimes that took place last year.
Technology companies are under increased pressure to manufacture robots, which will be more cost-effective than paying monthly salaries in the long run.
Robots have already circulated in several Asian and western countries and have been proven to be able to clean kitchens and floors and carry out other tasks.
Technology companies have sold more than 10 million domestic robots globally this year.
Several companies have visited Gulf countries to showcase the ability of these robots and other “smart” products that offer solutions to domestic chores.
“This is a good idea, but Saudi society will not easily accept the idea of replacing manpower with robots, especially since they still need someone to cook and make tea,” said Adel Al-Essa, director of operations at a technology company and an economic expert. “Nevertheless, the never-ending problems sponsors face in recruiting housemaids, including legal and crime-related issues, may just force society to accept having robots at home.”
“Saudi women may, however, face difficulty working the gadgets, which operate in the English language,” he said.
“The potential success of robots will certainly cause huge losses to housemaid recruitment firms,” he told Arab News.
Yehia Al-Maqboul, president of the Recruitment Committee at the Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry (JCCI), denied that this new technology will impact recruitment firms.
“Saudi society will need a long time to accept robots to replace housemaids,” he said. “There are several chores that housemaids do that robots simply cannot.”
Meanwhile, the Labor Ministry recently disclosed plans to recruit housemaids from Kyrgyzstan to meet the severe shortage.
“We are in talks with officials from former Soviet republics about the recruitment of domestic helpers,” said Ahmed Al-Fehaid, deputy minister for international affairs.
“Maid-exporting countries are limited in number,” he said. “Some Arab countries export manpower when their economy becomes weak, only to stop when the economy picks up again.”
“Still, Saudis prefer domestic workers from Arab countries if they are ready to fulfill the ministry’s conditions,” said Al-Fehaid.