Despite the inaction seen in Bahrain to institute a universal minimum wage for workers outside of the public sector, progressive measures are being taken by neighboring Kuwait to implement upgrades to its newly approved labor law.
The Trade Arabia News Source released an article recently that revealed the approval of a minimum wage for expatriate workers of approximately 207 USD per month. Although the salary is relatively small, this is a major milestone across the GCC countries, and especially within Kuwait; a country that has traditionally neglected the establishment of legal safeguards to protect its foreign population from exploitation and coercion by Kuwaiti citizens.
Kuwait's new labor law was approved earlier this year, and until that time, had not been reformed in over forty years.
Although a minimum wage is certain to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kuwait's foreign workers, domestic workers are currently excluded from the new labor law.
The article also focused on promulgating legislation that would enforce a new minimum wage for Kuwait's estimated 600,000 domestic workers, employed as maids, drivers, gardeners and security guards. A proposed salary of 45 Kuwaiti Dinars (approximately 154 USD) is one of several reforms that will be included in the draft domestic worker law, along with amendments to enforce working hours, payment of wages and protection from abuse.
Such legislation would vastly improve the lives of domestic workers who are often forced to work 16-hour days. If the current draft law is approved by parliament, working hours for domestic workers would be limited to eight per day, employers would no longer be allowed to withhold passports, and workers would be allowed one day off per week and time-off during national holidays.
Skeptics still question the extent to which the government would be able to enforce the new law given the high sensitivity associated with domestic issues (within private homes) and how they should be regulated by the Ministry of Social Development (responsible for regulating all other foreign workers). For example, the new law would impose fines on employers who fail to pay their domestic workers, but there are no mechanisms in place to enforce or prove that a violation has been committed. Since most sponsors do not allow their domestic workers to contact their embassies or law enforcement agents, most cases go unreported.