Voice against the rights of domestic workers

This report by the Kuwait Society for Human Rights examines the reality of labor in Kuwait, and specializes in monitoring legal, administrative, positive and negative changes happening in the field, and in reading the dimensions of these changes on migrant workers "noncitizens" and their impact on the Kuwaiti society, State, economic vision and foreign policy. The report comes as an interpretation to what is happening inside Kuwait, according to the following criteria.

* What has been published in media and social sites.

* Complaints that have been received by Kuwait Society for Human Rights via the Hotline which receives workers' complaints and inquiries in Arabic, Hindi, English and Urdu, or via the electronic platform that receives complaints in Arabic and English.

* Field visits to labor groups in different locations.

* Administrative decisions issued during the reporting period.

* Communication and coordination with competent government agencies to find the latest statistics and indicators related to workers' issues.

Note that the reporting period is the second trimester of the current year 2018: May, June, July and August".

Events of the reporting period

The number of non-Kuwaitis who are working in governmental agencies is 78,317. The majority of them are in the ministries of health and education. The Ministry of Health includes 33,303 workers, and the Ministry of Education 26,433 workers, with total of 59,736 workers which equals 76% of workers in the public sector.

The number of unemployed Kuwaitis is about 12 thousand citizens which is about 8158 unemployed citizens do not have a scientific qualification, and approximately 3479 citizens do not hold any qualification, not even a middle school, while only 3,828 of them hold the middle certificate. The remaining unemployed citizens registered in the systems of the Bureau have already been nominated more than once for many jobs and yet do not wish to accept them. In light of these figures and the concerns that have been expressed by the Director of the Civil Service Bureau that the replacement policy cannot be applied in the ministries of health and education, on May 24, the Bureau addressed the Ministry of Education to include a number of teachers in replacement, while claims rose by the Parliamentary Replacement Committee on May 20 to terminate the services of non-Kuwaiti doctors over 65 years.

The period of the report has witnessed various events, such as the termination of the services of 10,000 non-Kuwaiti workers in the public sector, and on July 24, the activation of the decision not to pay end of service benefits to employees whose services have been terminated, unless they were given a notice of leaving the country. And they should not transfer their residency to the private sector otherwise their end of service benefits will be denied.

The government has taken concrete steps in protecting workers and started implementing the decision to ban the employment of workers in exposed places from 11 am to 4 pm during the period from the first of June until the end of August in order to implement the provisions of Law No. 6 of 2010 on the work in civil sector and its commitment to the international conventions taking into account the workers' health and safety.

Although the government urged the community to participate in controlling the labor market by reporting if there has been any violation of the provisions via the hotline number, there were workers who were working in this period in some exposed places. On July 30, the Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister has affirmed Kuwait's support for and cooperation with the international community in its efforts to combat human trafficking.

Increasing irregularities

During the reporting period, the domestic labor file was heated by responsible actions that started to move from the decision of the Council of Ministers to transfer the competences of the domestic labor to the Public Authority for Labor Force and the opening of the Citizen Service Center by the Ministry of the Interior on May 7 inside the headquarters of Al-Durra Company for the recruitment of domestic workers.

Besides, the Supreme National Committee for Studying the Imbalances of the Population Structure at the Central Administration of Statistics has issued a decision to maximize the value of fees in some procedures for work permits, which led to the departure of overcrowded domestic workers in embassies for fear of increasing irregularities fees and issuance of a legislation to punish anyone who helps to "incite to escape " since there is no provision to punish the instigator in Law No. 68 of 2016 concerning domestic labor.

The domestic labor file of the Philippines has remained controversial during the reporting period. Although the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait and the Philippines has signed the agreement on the employment of domestic workers between Kuwait and the Philippines on May 11. However, the Philippine side has later amended this document.

The agreement between the two countries has affirmed the support to the policies, regulations and procedures for the ethical recruitment and employment of domestic workers in accordance with the laws and regulations of both countries, the introduction and employment of Filipino domestic workers for a model work contract and assurance of recruitment, entry and home return of domestic workers under the provisions of the agreement. The agreement covered a number of issues, the most important of which are legal measures against violators whether employers, domestic workers, recruitment offices in the State of Kuwait and employment agencies in the Philippines, in respect of any violation of the labor contract and the laws, rules and regulations in both countries as well as reduction of the fees of domestic labor recruitment.

However, on July 22, the Philippine side has issued an executive regulation No. 10 of 2018 on the mechanism for implementing the agreement signed between the governments of Kuwait and the Philippines, which included a new condition that was not included in the agreement. The Kuwaiti recruitment offices of domestic workers should pay an insurance amount of $10,000 to a local bank in Philippines. The amount is to be deducted if the worker returns without completing the contract period or as a result of not receiving his/her salary or any other complaint. The regulation pointed out that in the case of frequent complaints against the offices, the amount of insurance raises up to $ 50,000.

Finding a compromise

After the signing of the agreement, specifically on May 16, the ban on Philippine labor was lifted by the Philippine government, but some reports of Philippine newspapers revealed in July that the decision did not enter into force and quoted the Philippine immigration expert Mani Gislavi said "Despite the decision to lift the ban on sending Philippine labor to Kuwait since May 16 by the Philippine President, but these directives have not yet entered into force by the Philippine Department of Overseas Employment."

On June 19, requests to receive domestic workers from the Philippines started and on July 23, that was followed by the Philippines agreement with Kuwait to provide a "complex" for the Philippines labor to spend their weekly leave and the launch of a special monitor sector to enable the two sides to control the conditions of domestic labor as affirmed by the labor attaché at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait in a press statement. On May 19, Al-Durra Company has contacted Vietnam's domestic labor offices to find a compromise formula to receive their domestic labor.

On July 24, local media reported that the Philippine ambassador in Kuwait had apologized to the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry more than once about the smuggling of domestic workers from homes by a division of the Philippine embassy. They referred to that "The Philippine president has withdrawn his position and asked to visit Kuwait." And the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry confirmed that Philippine labor crisis and the practices of some Embassy diplomats have been addressed. Despite the efforts made by the two countries to resolve the issue of domestic labor, which reached its peak this year and caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and was resolved later, the disappearance of a Filipino female domestic worker for a year and a half was announced on August 21. The Philippine Employment Agency sent a letter to the Embassy of the Philippines in Kuwait inquiring about her fate, which may bring the problem of domestic labor back to the forefront.

In the context of the domestic labor file, the Public Authority for Labor Force has met with the Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Kuwait on July 13 and discussed "ways of cooperation between the two countries, the procedures concerning domestic labor and labor in the private sector and the procedures concerning labor protection as well as confirmation of the importance of the countries of the domestic labor to participate in awareness of their labor in Kuwait."

Solving the crisis

On May 30, India has prepared a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait for the return of domestic workers without a bank guarantee as stated by the Indian Ambassador in Kuwait. Then on July 1, the recruitment of female domestic workers from India has begun, according to a press statement by Al-Durra Company for the recruitment of domestic workers.

The efforts to solve the crisis of domestic workers in Kuwait collide with the practices of officials, celebrities and members of the National Assembly and raise social issues. On July 18, a member in the parliament asked for the services of Al-Durra Company to be specific "for citizens without expatriates. He said, "It is unacceptable in light of the labor crisis and after the long wait for the start of the services of the troubled company, that the citizen enters another trouble because of the competition of expatriates."

On August 10, a domestic worker from Ghana threw herself from the fourth floor in a housing of one of the recruitment offices of domestic workers. Also statements made by a Kuwaiti citizen, who is one of the celebrities on Instagram and she is followed by more than two million people, has started a new crisis in the file of domestic labor after her objection to the delivery of passports and personal documents to her workers and said, "What funny contracts are these! How it comes that you have a domestic worker at home and he keeps his passport? What's worse is that every week he has a day off. What is left?"

The domestic labor crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines has just closed when it was rekindled by that "celebrity" again. She inquired about the weekend and wondered what the worker would do in these days. "If the worker takes a day off a week, it means 4 days a month. We don't know what does she do on that day, and she has her passport. If she travels, who will compensate me?" Then she announced: "With the new contracts, I do not want a Philippine (maid)." --- provided by Kuwait Society for Human Rights, visit  www.kuwaithr.org for more

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