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Black marketers profit from maid shortage
May 5, 2018, 3:55 pm

In most Kuwaiti households the daily chores of cooking and cleaning increase dramatically during the holy month of Ramadan, when entertaining relatives and friends after Iftar with lavish spreads of food and drinks have become the norm.

This usually results in a surge in demand for domestic helpers ahead of the holy month, and most offices that supply domestic helpers are geared to meet this traditional demand. However, this year, there is a difference. Limited availability has led to a huge demand for domestic staff, and accordingly the price for available maids in the market have gone up, which in turn has spurred a lucrative black-market in household workers. 

The shortage of domestic helpers this year stems largely from two factors. The recent amnesty offered by Ministry of Interior for those illegally residing in the country to rectify their residence status, or leave the country without paying due fines, resulted in an exodus of many unemployed maids and other marginal workers from the country. The absence of such workers, who would normally be available to fill the demand gap during the month of Ramadan, has aggravated the supply scenario.   

Another factor causing a dearth of maids in the market is the ongoing spat between Kuwait and the Philippines. Recently, the Philippine ambassador to Kuwait was designated as persona non-grata and expelled from the country. In apparent retaliation, the Philippines has banned its nationals from being deployed to Kuwait. More than 60 percent of the Filipinos in Kuwait are engaged in domestic services. 

The huge demand and scant supply has led to offices supplying domestic workers significantly hiking the fees for the limited supply of available workers. Moreover, the price for new recruitment, from the handful of countries that still supply household workers to Kuwait, is said to have skyrocketed in recent months.

This has led to a profitable trade in the black-market supply of household workers to Kuwait.  Representatives of foreign domestic supply offices, from countries that have traditionally supplied laborers to Kuwait, are offering to undercut the local domestic services providers and deal directly with customers looking to hire new maids.  These representatives are often found near buildings that house local domestic labor offices.

They attempt to attract customers even before they enter the building by offering maids from their home-country at prices that most people would find irresistible. They gather details of the customers and contact them for home delivery of domestic workers  According to local media reports, foreign representatives are offering to provide domestic helpers from places such as India for around KD 670, and for a stipulated salary of KD 80 per month for a fresh employee and KD 100 for someone with experience in domestic work. 

The representatives claim that the customer would only have to issue the visa, and they would then handle all other work and logistics involved. This would include hiring the helper in India, or elsewhere, clearing the emigration formalities in the home-country, and getting them to Kuwait, all within a period of one month from issuance of visa. 

Many offices that supply domestic workers to the market blame the government for the supply crunch.

They cite the numerous stringent conditions being attached to bringing workers from abroad and also the many laws that keep changing every so often, and which lead some workers to abscond from their work place or even attempt or commit suicide in their workplace. 

Several citizens indicated they were not concerned with the causes and solutions of the current shortage of maids in the market and were only interested in how soon the domestic helpers would become available at affordable prices. They expressed concern that with Ramadan already here, the problem would become further exacerbated. 

The problem of domestic helper shortage is also made more complicated by the fact that domestic offices can currently provide workers only from India, and possibly from Ivory Coast later on. 

Many citizens say that Indian workers are not well-versed in cleaning, cooking and washing, and they generally handle only the children for 12 hours per day, but need to be paid KD 100 per day and moreover domestic offices charge KD 990 per Indian domestic helper.

It is expected that workers from Ivory Coast will also cost around KD 850 to recruit and will command a monthly salary of over KD 80. Many citizens say that the black-marketeers are the only people who profit under the current scenario.

- Staff Report

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