Kuwait lifts Ethiopian domestic worker ban

The move follows scrutiny of labour conditions in Kuwait after several abuse cases



Kuwait on Tuesday announced the lifting of a ban on the recruitment of Ethiopian domestic workers.

Ministry of Interior undersecretary for citizenship and passport affairs, major general Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, issued the decree yesterday after meetings held with a delegation from the Ethiopian government, according to state news agency KUNA.

He said the decision “aims to alleviate the suffering and ease the burden of citizens residents, especially with the holy month of Ramadan” approaching.

It is expected to “greatly reduce the costs” of hiring domestic staff in comparison to those from other nations like the Philippines and help balance a current shortage of workers.

Kuwait’s treatment of domestic workers has recently been in the spotlight after the Philippines banned the deployment of workers to the country due to abuse concerns.

This followed several cases of domestic staff being abused by their employers and committing suicide and the murder of a maid, whose body was found in an apartment freezer more than a year later.

Ethiopia issued a similar ban five years ago after reports of abuse and worker exploitation but an estimated 15,000 workers still live and work in Kuwait.

In one more recent incident an Ethiopian maid was filmed by her employer hanging from the seventh floor of an apartment building and begging for help before falling to the ground.

Kuwait police detained the woman for failing to help the worker in March 2017.

Sheikh Mazen said the government had familiarised the Ethiopian delegation with new measures to protect workers over the last three years.

The country set a minimum wage of KD60 ($198.54) a month for domestic staff in 2016 after the National Assembly passed a law the previous year that limited work hours to eight a day and introduced a mandatory weekend and 30 days of annual leave

Other changes included overtime pay and the need for employers to provide end of service gratuity.

Read: Kuwait sets minimum wage for domestic workers

Tensions between Kuwait and the Philippines have eased in recent weeks and they are now negotiating a deal to protect workers and provide them with rights including to retain their passports and mobile phones, guaranteed rest hours and proper meals.

Read: Kuwait court sentences couple to death for Filipina freezer murder

Separately, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has set a fixed price of KD990 ($3,267) for hiring domestic help through government offices or KD390 ($1,287 for those undertaking the process themselves.

Violators of the decision, which is being trialled for six months, will face legal action.