Domestic labor crisis looms; Philippines team here to find solution

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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 16: A high-ranking delegation from the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines is currently on official visit to the country in a bid to find radical solutions to the problem of overcrowding of more than 500 Filipino workers in the building of the Philippine Embassy in South Surra, reports Al-Jarida daily quoting a reliable source.

The source confirmed that “the delegation will hold a series of meetings, starting with the labor officials at the embassy, representatives of the Federation of Recruitment Agencies, and officials of the Domestic Labor Recruitment Regulation Department in the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM).

The delegation will also visit the workers shelter in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh to look into the situation of the Filipino workers there.” The source stressed the need to address this problem, which was exacerbated by the refusal of the workers shelter of PAM to cater to those reported absconding by their sponsors.

The source urged the embassy to cooperate with the concerned government agencies, including the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, to quickly solve the problems of domestic workers who are currently staying at the embassy. Despite the stability of the domestic labor sector during 2022, the decrease in demand and the noticeable increase in supply, recent data indicate a looming crisis, starting next February, reports Al-Rai daily.

Kuwait opened the door to recruiting domestic workers in February 2021 after the end of the most difficult periods of the “Corona” pandemic, which means that the contracts that have been in force since then, for a period of two years, will begin to expire as of next February, amid indications of signs of a new crisis, linked to a form essentially, the Filipino workforce is the most numerous, as it constitutes about 50 percent of the total number of female domestic workers and is the most in demand (about 184,000 out of 377,000).

Bassam Al-Shammari, a specialist in domestic labor affairs, told the daily that the number of workers in the family sector until last September reached about 711 thousand, the majority of whom are females, in addition to about 40 thousand who entered the domestic labor market during the three months of 2022, which brings the total to about 750,000. He pointed out that the recruitment crisis is not limited to one country, but is related to several countries, explaining that the memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia regarding domestic workers has been suspended for more than three years and has not yet been completed, which negatively affects the labor market and leads to higher prices.

Al-Shammari enumerated the most important reasons that led to the stability of the domestic labor sector during 2022 and the decline in complaints, include the issuance of the executive regulations of Law No. 68 of 2015 regarding domestic workers, which allowed the transfer of residence for domestic workers in several cases, including the sponsor’s breach of the terms of the contract or failure to pay salaries and end of service; the Public Authority for Manpower resorted to amicable solutions in resolving labor disputes, and allowing workers to transfer and increased awareness of the provisions of the law and knowledge of labor rights among the majority of sponsors, which led to the commitment of more than 70 percent of them


However, with the increase in the number of domestic workers significantly during the past two years, the complaints of the workers increased and the government shelter was filled with them, and some of those who were not accepted by the government shelter took refuge in the shelters affiliated with their country’s embassies, until the average labor escape reached about 10 cases per day during the past two months, according to informed sources.

With the slow pace of finding a solution to their problems, the numbers in shelters have multiplied, some of which may lack the necessities of life, for several reasons, most notably failure to pay the worker’s salaries and end of service or breach of the contract; the large number of temptations that the worker receives through some social media, with better job opportunities and lucrative sums of money in case she runs away from the sponsor and some fake offices that convince the worker that there is a job opportunity for her outside Kuwait, and to obtain a tourist visa for her to enter other countries in the region, so she refuses to work for her sponsor and demands her deportation, while sometimes bearing the cost of the ticket until she travels to the new work destination.

Al-Shammari explained that these reasons may lead to a crisis in the domestic labor market starting from February, if efforts are not combined to find an immediate and quick solution by all concerned parties, since the countries exporting domestic workers are limited and their number is small, after many countries stopped exporting labor to Kuwait, such as Indonesia, Nepal and Ethiopia, which have been waiting for the signing of the agreement for a long time, in addition to the current overcrowding of Filipino domestic workers in the government shelter and their embassy shelter. He added that failure to properly end the suffering of workers forces embassies to establish unlicensed shelters sometimes, which may harm Kuwait’s reputation with international human rights organizations and may push countries to stop exporting workers.

The following is the list of nationalities for male and female workers in the domestic sector, India, 323,801, or 45.5 percent; the Philippines, 184,939, or 26 percent; Sri Lanka, 80,593, or 11.3 percent; Bangladesh, 78,521, an 11 percent and as for the other nationalities, they are distributed among Nepal, Ethiopia, Benin, Indonesia, Pakistan the Sudan and other nationalities. The Filipinos, Indians and Sri Lankans constitute the largest percentage of domestic workers, at 93 percent, as their numbers amount to about 352,000 out of 377,000.

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