The Philippines has partially lifted a ban on workers being deployed to Kuwait after signing a labour protection deal last week, according to reports.
Friday’s agreement included mechanisms to assist workers in distress and bans employers with a history of abuse from hiring Filipino domestic staff.
The two sides began working on the deal in March after a series of abuse cases, including that of a maid who was murdered and dumped in a freezer, prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to invoke the ban the previous month.
However, the deal had until last week seemed in jeopardy after Kuwait accused the Philippine Embassy in the country of breaching its sovereignty by conducting illegal worker rescue operations.
The Gulf country expelled the Philippine ambassador prompting Duterte to say he would make the work ban permanent on April 29.
Publications in the Philippines reported that the partial lifting of the ban on Tuesday means skilled and semi-skilled workers with positions secured in Kuwait can now have their employment certificates processed by the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency.
Workers in these categories can also resume applying for positions in the Gulf country.
Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press conference that around 20,000 workers are expected to benefit from the change.
However, a ban on domestic workers will remain in place, he said.
“The ban on domestic helpers will be lifted eventually – I just don’t know when, and what other reforms the Department of Labour and Employment will make,” Roque was quoted as saying.
Duterte is said to be waiting on advice from special envoy to Kuwait Abdullah Mama-o regarding the wider ban.
Other officials indicated the government wanted to see how Friday’s agreement develops before taking further steps.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) deputy administrator Arnell Arevalo Ignacio said additional measures were needed to lift the ban including potential ‘day-off centres’ for housemaids.
“Sponsors said one of many reasons why they are not allowing their housemaids to have a day off is because they are afraid they will be befriended by men and will run away,” he said.
“If we have this problem, shall we deprive our housemaids of their social life?”
He suggested training centres could also be used to help workers handle cultural shocks when they arrive in Kuwait and companies could be set up to allow the recruitment of domestic workers on an hourly basis.
There are around 150,000 Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait and more than 250,000 Filipinos working in the country in total.