Government set to initiate reforms in labour laws and policies to protect migrant workers
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are among the largest importers of labour globally. A thousand migrant workers leave the country annually to seek opportunities as domestic service workers in Saudi Arabia due to the Kafala system which makes the process affordable. The female migrant workers do not incur migration costs since they migrate on a sponsored visa and air ticket funded by the employer. The kafala system is however disadvantageous on the employees since upon arrival they are held in slavery-like conditions.
In 2020, the diaspora remittances surpassed the income obtained from the traditional sources such export of agricultural products. Therefore the government saw the opportunity in exporting labour to the gulf countries and more so Saudi Arabia which has bilateral agreement with Kenya on labour matters. The government through the ministry of labour has introduced several reforms through policy frameworks while other reforms are underway in bills of parliament and draft policies that are yet to be concluded. Among the key reforms introduced to reduce distress from ladies traveling to Saudi Arabia, is compulsory pre-departure training conducted by licensed home care training institutions in Conjunction with National Industrial Training Institute (NITA). The changes were introduced amid the increased mistreatment and death rate of domestic service workers.
To ensure that ladies can always be saved from distressed conditions and be airlifted back to the country through the assistance of the embassy, the Ministry of labour through the National Employment Authority (NEA) requires all migrant workers going to Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states to pass through registered and licensed Employment Agencies which are listed on NEA website. The CS for labour, Simon Chelugui has asserted that migrant workers stuck in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Countries were sneaked out of the country by unscrupulous employment agents. Among the key reforms to come in the future is the establishment of a safe house for distressed migrant workers, provision of social welfare packages such as medical cover, overtime pay and leave days for the migrant workers. Philippines is the largest exporter of Domestic service labour in the Middle East due to its improved labour laws and policies that protect its migrant workers. Kenya is reviewing its labour laws and policies progressively towards achieve such as status.