Kuwait

Country Profile



Facts & Figures

There are 900,000 migrant domestic workers by the beginning of 2020 in Kuwait. This is 2% of the country's total population¹ and 37% of Kuwaits labor force.² About half of Kuwaits migrant domestic workers are from India, 13% from the Philippines, 11% from Bangladesh, 10.5% from Indonesia and 8.3% from Sri Lanka. A smaller number of migrant domestic workers come from Ethiopia, Ghana and Nepal.³

90% of all housholds in Kuwait employ migrant domestic workers. They mostly earn less than 20% of the average national wage. Due to the lack of enforcement, the minimum wage of USD 147 per month is not always paid. In 2015, a new law was created to ensure fair working conditions. However, the implementation of the law failed due to the lack of condemnation by employers who disregard the law.

Kuwait comprises a number of recruitment agencies, however not all agencies are registered. Therefore, interested domestic workers are advised to contact their country's embassy in the desired destination country. When applying for a job as a domestic worker abroad, a domestic worker does not have to pay an application fee.6

Complaints

Since 2010, 2,247 foreign domestic workers were rescued by Napalis Embassy due to exploitation and abuse.7 The most common problems of migrant domestic workers in Kuwait are overwork, lack of salary and lack of days off. In addition, cases of rape, sexual harassment and abuse are reported. Migrant workers who are exploited can turn to local organisations and their embassy for support. However, African countries do not have an embassy in Kuwait.8

Due to the kafala system, migrant domestic workers can be deported if they run away from their employer. They have to report to the Domestic Workers Department within five days, otherwise they will be deported. However, the domestic workers' options are limited as there is only one Domestic Workers Department in Kuwait with four staff members.9

Resources

Legal Framework

As a member state of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Kuwait ratified 19 ILO conventions excluding the C100 Equal Remuneration Convention which refers to the enforcement of a minimum wage and equal remuneration among women and men.10

In 2013, Law No. 91 on Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants was enacted to ensure the punishment including jail and death penalty of those involved in trafficking. Kuwait also ratified Law 84 Arab Charter on Human Rights by 2013. The charter states that every worker is eligible to fair and adequate working conditions including regulations on working hours, rest, paid holidays as well as health ensurance. Law No. 68 of 2015 on the Employment of Domestic Workers in Kuwait aims to close legal gaps for domestic workers by prohibiting discrimination against their religious beliefs, gender and colour, and ensuring decent living conditions. In addition, Law No. 68 states that the employer is not entitled to confiscate personal identification documents such as the passport. Key facts of Law No. 68 include:

  • Right to weekly resting day

  • Maximum of 12 hours work including a one hour break

  • Minimum of 8 hours continuous rest at night

  • 1 month paid annual leave

  • Need of adequate housing, food & clothing

Moreover, Law No. 69 Concerning the Establishment of a Closed Joint Stock Company for the Recruitment and Employment of Domestic Workers was implemented in 2015. It contains basic regulations for workers employed in the domestic sector. In addition to provisions on fair wages and health insurance, Law No. 69 also refers to recruitment agencies and the need to train migrant domestic workers before they enter the country. The described laws illustrate revised regulations for migrant domestic workers. However, the kafala system is still in place, meaning that the stay of migrant workers is tied to sponsors, who thus have power over the legal status of migrant workers.11

Despite numerous legal provisions, the Human Rights Committee's observations in 2016 highlighted inadequate law enforcement and human rights violations in the domestic worker sector in Kuwait. Cases of violated domestic workers are mostly unreported due to their fear of punishment and risk of being sent back to their country of origin. Hence, employers often withhold domestic workers passport. Although Kuwait ratified the Law 33 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1968 domestic workers are still subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse by their employees. When migrant domestic workers report violence in their workplace, cases are often handled administratively without going to court. The non-transparent outcome of domestic workers' complaints underlines the lack of legal entrenchment.12


SOURCES

  1. Alaraby (2021). Kuwait: a breakthrough in the domestic labor crisis. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/economy/الكويت-انفراجة-في-أزمة-العمالة-المنزلية
  2. The World Bank (2020). Labor Force Total Kuwait. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.IN?locations=KW
  3. Alaraby (2021). Kuwait: a breakthrough in the domestic labor crisis. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/economy/الكويت-انفراجة-في-أزمة-العمالة-المنزلية
  4. Migrant Rights (2021). Domestic Workers in the gulf. https://www.migrant-rights.org/statistic/domesticworkers/
  5. Al-Monitor (2020). Breakthrough in domestic workers' return to Kuwait. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/03/breakthrough-domestic-workers-return-kuwait
  6. Project Bridges (n.d.) Your Guide to Employing a Migrant Domestic Worker in Kuwait. https://www.migrant-rights.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/KuwaitGuidebook_ENG.pdf
  7. Migrant Rights (2021). Domestic Workers in the gulf. https://www.migrant-rights.org/statistic/domesticworkers/
  8. Sandigan Kuwait (20.11.21). Interview Kuwait.
  9. ibid.
  10. Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2015). The Rights of Domestic Workers between Legislative System and Enforcement. http://mfasia.org/recruitmentreform/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Kuwait-Society-for-Human-RightsTheRightsofDomesticWorkers.pdf
  11. Migrant Rights (2021). The Flexi Permit Experiment: No Kafala, but poor labour practices persist. https://www.migrant-rights.org/2021/04/the-flexi-permit-experiment-no-kafala-but-poor-labour-practices-persist/
  12. Kuwait Society for Human Rights (2015). The Rights of Domestic Workers between Legislative System and Enforcement. http://mfasia.org/recruitmentreform/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Kuwait-Society-for-Human-RightsTheRightsofDomesticWorkers.pdf