The working market labour inequalities

By Nafha Maani Ebrahimi

It is a lucrative business this labour market, in all its aspects and at all levels. A friend was telling how much Indian nurses pay to work in the Gulf countries. I was shocked to hear the figures. But, the high salaries in these countries make it worthwhile.

There are no clear indications where this amount goes, nor how it is distributed, but it seems like a win-win situation for all parties. Although one might think that conditions may be better in such prosperous countries, it seems that the middleman always has the last word.
In a country such as Kuwait, one of the heaviest users of house help, drivers and nannies, controversial issues are on the rise.

In every Kuwaiti household, there is at least one helper, and the number rises with the ability of the family to pay more salaries. The staff coming from Philippines are amongst the highest paid nationalities in the Gulf region while Kenyan and Ugandans are among the lowest paid.

It is interesting to see how the government of Philippines is actively taking care of its nationals who live abroad, and if you have been following the news, there are several reports of abuse of domestic staff in the Gulf region. This in turn has pushed the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to publicly criticise and threaten to recall all his nationals if these countries fail to take drastic measures to protect them. And to show them how determined he was, he did send some chartered planes to bring back the workers who wished to leave the region, an act that did not go well with the authorities in these countries.

Not only that, there are procedures and formalities that the Philippino staff have to go through before being allowed to leave their country, including training seminars about what they should expect in these countries and how to behave in different situations.

Interestingly, the number of Ugandans in this region is growing fast, alongside Kenyans and some West Africans. I’m not sure what procedures they have to go through but surely it is not as strict, maybe this leaves them in a vulnerable situation. However, so far, many have managed to maintain their posts and send funds to their families back home. Speaking of funds, with all this movement of manpower, transfer of money between countries has become lucrative, adding one more layer to those who benefit from this huge labour market.

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