Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hind Al-Sabeeh issued a ministerial decree defining the minimum wage for workers in the private and oil sectors – at KD 75 per month. The provisions of the resolution apply to contracts and work permits as well as to contracts for government projects.
It is a good thing for the ministry to realize there is a problem in the salaries of expat workers in the private and oil sectors, because this issue has led some of these poor people to protest and strike previously to claim their legitimate and human rights according to their contracts. But I find this amount of KD 75, which was set as a minimum, is very meager compared to the high standard of living in Kuwait.
If you ever lived in Kuwait, you will agree that this a tiny amount that is not enough to provide you with a decent roof to rent with your family, aside from your personal expenses for eating, drinking and maybe shopping for clothes. You have to forget about entertainment. The weekly movie ticket is a luxury you should not think about.
The number of expatriate workers in Kuwait, according to the Directorate General of Statistics in 2014, was 1,396,427 – 91.39 percent male and 8.63 percent female. This number is large, and of course, salaries are of main interest, especially for small-time workers. This subject is not the only matter that should be under the spotlight, because during the past few months, the General Authority for Labor announced some amendments to the provisions of labor laws for expatriates, called the unified labor contract.
I don’t think the amendments brought about any major change. Here is why. For example, the worker may be subject to a probationary period of up to 100 days from the date of commencing work prior to the formal signing of the contract of employment. I do not see this as a surprising change. It is normal for most companies to take this step to protect themselves. This procedure is often suitable for employers, not workers. This decision cannot apply to everyone, especially expatriates who work in mid-level professions, operations and transport.
One of the serious amendments – which unfortunately some employers disregard – is the employee’s right to a full month in paid annual leave. This measure may be respected in the oil sector, but when it comes to companies, it needs supervision. According to law no. 1 of 1999, the employer is obliged to insure his workers against occupational injuries or occupational diseases. I see workers setting up hoardings in public streets without protective clothing or helmets, which makes me wonder if they are insured against injuries in the event of a fall.
One of the new amendments to the labor law and for expatriates is that the first party or the employer shall pay a sum of money as indemnity at the end of service to the second party or the worker. I thought about domestic workers – they too should receive such compensation for their services as they are no less than the workers of oil companies! Any amendment affecting expatriate workers should bear in mind that employers can honor, manipulate or ignore the laws, with workers being those at risk.
By Muna Al-Fuzai