In light of the recent controversy brought about by the distasteful disapproval of a social media influencer regarding the labour provisions of the law on domestic helpers in Kuwait, the sad reality is that a wide majority of domestic helpers do not get the prescribed weekly day off, despite the legal provisions to do so.
An informal survey conducted by the Kuwait Times with over 200 Filipino domestic helpers as respondents reveals that around 78 per cent of them do not get a day off from work every week. The results confirm the plight of domestic helpers in general, and the insubstantial observance of employers to governing domestic laws of their own country, which directly affects the basic rights and employees’ freedom in their work in the Gulf State.
78 per cent of Filipino Domestic Helpers in Kuwait Still without Weekly Day off despite Legal Requirement
It can be recalled that in May, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) had been signed by both Kuwait and the Philippines which clearly details the prescribed working hours and days off to be given to Filipino domestic helpers in Kuwait in exchange for the lifting of the temporary ban on the Gulf State.
However, two months following the signing of the MOA, more than two-thirds of Filipino household helpers still do not get a weekly day off from work they are entitled to by the State.
According to the report by the Kuwait Times, sponsors often treat domestic helpers, especially younger women, as a little more like children. And while these women are of legal age and are given huge responsibilities in the household, they are not allowed by their sponsors to go out without chaperones.
The reasoning often given by most sponsors include the possible risk of their helper finding a lover and getting pregnant, which is considered a crime that is subject to imprisonment since sex outside marriage is strictly forbidden in the country. Also, employers are also averting the possibility of their helpers to run away.
The attitudes and misconceptions of sponsors hint at the real problem of the matter: sponsors think of their helpers as child-like and those who cannot be trusted despite the burden of labour and responsibilities in taking care of their employer’s household as well as tending to the needs of every family member including children, and sometimes even other relatives.
During his recent visit to Kuwait, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Arnell Arevalo Ignacio had opened up the idea of a day care centre for Filipino housemaids. To this, local agency owners have shown initial interest in the idea, but have not made any concrete steps to work out a plan.
On his thoughts on this matter, Mr. Ignacio explained that the MOA had been signed and is regarded by the government. However, there are still a lot of things to be done in terms of its implementation, mechanism, and some groundwork to make sure that the needs of stakeholders are duly met.
Mr. Ignacio shared that he was instructed by the President to work out the details, as the MOA is not just a piece of paper to be signed and then left to be hanging.
As we have already seen some progress come out of the petition to improve labour rights and treatment of domestic helpers in Kuwait, as a nation, it is just as important that we no longer take a step back in terms of its execution and in the safeguarding of policies set to benefit all stakeholders involved.