Kuwait to set minimum wage for workers

Labour and social affairs minister calls for US $170 per month package after recent expat worker strikes in Dubai

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  September 24, 2005

Kuwait’s minister of social affairs and labour, Faisal al-Hajji has proposed the introduction of a minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers. The government intervened and threatened action against employers if they did not pay. Hajji was quoted as saying that he has submitted recommendations to the cabinet calling for a US $170 (KWD50) minimum monthly wage for foreigners hired by private companies involved in government contracts. Monthly salaries of many expatriate workers are as low as $70 a month. He also said that after the recommendations are approved, no private company will be awarded a government contract before guaranteeing it will pay the minimum wage. More than 1.8 million foreigners live in Kuwait, which has a population of 2.8 million. About 900 000 work in the private sector; about 60% of those are from the Indian subcontinent. In its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report”, released in June, the US State Department criticised Kuwait and three other Gulf states for not doing enough to halt the human trafficking trade. Washington has also stipulated that improving labour conditions and amending the labour law will be conditions for starting free trade talks with Kuwait. Like other oil-rich Gulf states, foreign workers in Kuwait’s private sector must have a “sponsor”, a regulation that restricts their movement and puts them at the mercy of their employers. Officials have said Kuwait has been cooperating with the International Labour Organisation for the past four years, and is considering ILO suggestions for changing the sponsor requirements. Asian construction workers have staged a series of strikes in recent months, including the most recent one on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed road last week, claiming they had not been paid wages in several months.

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