Anirban Ray

Within three years, the minimum age of Sri Lankans looking to come to Oman and other GCC countries to work as housemaids will be raised to 30 from the current 21.

Promising a paradigm shift in the overall image of Sri Lanka, Dilan Perera, the country's Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, said, “We don’t want our women to leave the country. Right now the age limit is 21 years and with time this measure will discourage them to go to other countries to work as housemaids.”

He also said that when housemaids return to the country, there will be other facilities made available to them by the government. “Housemaids and other expatriates who come back from Gulf will be compensated. They will be helped with housing loans. For the low-income group, the government plans to assist by providing 50 per cent of loan, but we will help the middle income groups as well,” he said.

Perera added, “Sri Lankans who come back from Oman and other parts of the world wanting to start a business are always welcome. They will be extended all help from the government.”

The minister, who is on a three-day visit to the sultanate that started from Thursday and addressed a huge audience of Sri Lankans at Hotel Muscat Holiday on Friday. He will be meeting a delegation of Omani officials on Saturday to sign a memorandum of understanding that he said will benefit both the countries.

Perera said, “Ever since my visit in December last year where I came not as a minister but as the president of Sri Lanka Volleyball Federation, I discussed several issues with the authorities of the sultanate. I had also addressed the community at Sri Lankan School Muscat at that time. Based on the discussions, we have worked on several issues.

After extensive work on these suggestions, in the next few months we will offer a slew of benefits from the workforce in Sri Lanka. More skilled labourers instead of housemaids will apply for jobs in the GCC region. We are also looking forward to team up with companies that will give training to our men and women under three divisions, job, company and country specific.”

According to the country’s embassy in Muscat, there are about 25,000 Sri Lankan nationals in Oman and a large number of blue-collared workforce.

Thanking the huge expatriate force of Sri Lanka in Oman, the minister concluded, “In recent times when most of the world was reeling from recession, Sri Lanka was not affected because of the huge remittance that we received from our people all over the world. We thank them and we assure them that the government will undertake every measure to address and resolve every problem of our people.”