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‘Need to find solution on war-footing’
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 14: Given the ongoing halt by the majority of nations sending domestic workers to Kuwait, the crisis in this sector persists both generally and specifically in women’s employment, have an impact on all labor recruitment agencies at this current juncture, reports Al-Rai daily. It’s worth noting that while the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Jordan have overcome this crisis years ago by adhering to their recruitment laws, while Kuwait’s laws, which are regarded as among the world’s best in labor rights, have not yielded the same results. Specialist in domestic labor affairs, Bassam Al-Shammari outlined to Al-Rai the unique advantages of Kuwaiti labor laws, setting them apart from neighboring countries.
These advantages include three distinct provisions – a one-month paid leave after 11 months of work; end-of-service remuneration equivalent to one month’s salary per year of service and double wages for domestic workers for any additional hours worked beyond regular working hours. Al-Shammari referred to these three additions as “unfavorable for employers” as they are not provided for in the Civil Labor Law. He further explained that the failure to fully enforce laws related to the employment sector led to the incorporation of these provisions, which in turn increased the burden on employers and discouraged some from seeking new workers.
Al-Shammari revealed that the number of domestic workers increased to approximately 780,000 in the first half of 2023 compared to about 613,000 in 2022. This increase is largely attributed to the recruitment of male workers (cooks, drivers, etc.) who face fewer challenges in hiring compared to female workers. However, the full impact of the situation will become clearer after December 2023, as contracts for female workers are nearly suspended and a significant portion of existing contracts for female workers will begin expiring, intensifying the crisis. He called upon relevant authorities to swiftly find solutions and mediate between government agencies to resolve conflicts that may exacerbate challenges and harm all parties involved amid the current circumstances faced by the domestic labor sector.
Cultural Al-Shammari stressed the necessity of promoting cultural awareness about employment laws among the stakeholders, including sponsors, workers, recruitment agency owners, and personnel in government bodies focused on civil and domestic employment while at the same time emphasizing the importance of learning from neighboring countries’ experiences, particularly Bahrain’s model, which closely resembles Kuwait’s.
He also urged the government to sign agreements with countries exporting domestic workers, aligning with plans to adjust demographics and labor needs without relying solely on one country and exploring new countries with suitable labor export levels in line with Kuwaiti family dynamics is crucial. He also called on the government to work on signing memorandums with countries that export domestic workers in line with the plan to adjust the demographics and their needs, not to rely on a specific country, and to search for new countries that export workers at an acceptable level commensurate with the nature of the Kuwaiti family.
Al-Shammari proposed seven measures that would enable Kuwait to keep pace with neighboring countries in this thorny file – correct activation of memorandums of understanding concluded with labor-exporting countries; establishing an approved mechanism for resolving labor disputes regarding dues; final clearance is a prerequisite before leaving the country (clearance); facilitating transfer procedures in case the worker wants to work for another sponsor and not leave; reconsidering reports of absenteeism and not activating the report until 60 days have elapsed from its date; activating the role of the shelter center to eliminate labor shelters in embassies and untangling the competencies between government agencies in the matter of domestic workers. Al-Shammari said, “It has been noticed recently that it is difficult to find educated domestic workers, and there is a decline in the cultural level of the workers, and it is now difficult to find workers who can speak English,” stressing that this decline in the quality of the recruited workers will have social effects on the Kuwaiti family.
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