Dubai: Female Sri Lankan domestic workers must be aged 23 to accept employment abroad, according to the Sri Lankan government.

The age limit was earlier set at 20 years.

The change, now in effect, seeks to ensure young mothers stay in their home country longer before accepting jobs overseas, officials said.

“The child of a female domestic worker seeking overseas employment should not be less than 6 years of age. This is mentioned in the guidelines laid down for female domestic workers by the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare,” said M.M. Abdul Rahmeen, consul general of Sri Lanka on Thursday.

An estimated 150,000 Sri Lankans live and work in the UAE, 40 per cent of whom are domestic workers.

“Majority of the women who go abroad to work as domestic helpers are from rural areas and so they need to get a clearance letter from the government agent stationed in their respective village. This is a policy decision by the government. They should then approach the Sri Lankan Bureau of Employment (SLBFE) with this clearance letter,” Raheem said in an interview.

The SLBFE was established in 1985 and looks after the welfare of Sri Lankan migrant workers and their families. Migrant workers leaving the country for employment should register with the bureau.

Raheem emphasised that the bureau is not responsible of those overseas workers who are not registered with the SLBFE.

“Working on visit and tourist visas is illegal. If they come through the proper channel for employment we care for their welfare at our diplomatic missions.”

The minimum salary for Sri Lankan domestic workers in UAE is set at Dh850. Individuals looking to sponsor Sri Lankan domestic worker have to keep a security deposit of $1,000 (Dh3,673) with the consulate.

“The deposit is refundable. Once the domestic worker leaves the country, after their terms ends and if his or her dues are cleared, the sponsor can come and collect the money,” Raheem said.