Domestic workers

MPs urge government to monitor Ugandan domestic workers abroad

The gender, labor and social development commission has urged the government to quickly put systems in place to monitor Ugandans working in foreign countries as domestic workers.

This follows rampant cases of torture and death of Ugandan domestic workers abroad.

MPs said the government should emulate countries like the Philippines, which has a thriving labor export industry and workers are protected from abuse.

“Saudi Arabia has a bilateral agreement with the Philippines and they are doing so well. Their migrant workers have a holiday every Christmas to go home and they go in large numbers, they leave with a lot of money,” said MP Margaret Rwabushaija (IND, Workers).

MPs made the call during a meeting with the Uganda Association of External Labor Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) on Thursday, July 28, 2022.

For countries like Saudi Arabia where many cases of human rights violations have been recorded, MPs said the government should increase the number of labor attachés to monitor workers in private homes.

MPs learned from UAERA that Uganda has outsourced 165,000 migrant workers to Saudi Arabia over the past five years and the Ugandan consulate has only five employees.

The chairperson of the committee, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, called on the government to use the annual tax revenue from the sector to increase the staff of Ugandan embassies.

“The tourism fund [should be] reinvested in the tourism sector, so even the labor attachés can be paid from tax revenue collected from the sector,” Kabahenda said.

She noted, however, that there were different categories of taxes in the industry whose use was not known to the public.

“We need to know the total amount a person is paying by the time they reach the end employer, so that we follow that money and see if it is for developing that sector or if it is a financial windfall for some people,” Kabahenda said.

UAERA Board Chairman Baker Akantambira said that for every migrant worker requested by the employer in host countries, US$30 is paid to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

He added that migrant workers also pay an airport tax at Entebbe airport in addition to the job application fee.

The sector, he said, brings Uganda an annual tax revenue of 4.5 trillion shillings.

He asked Parliament to come up with a standard legal framework, saying that currently the sector is regulated in a non-uniform way.

“We have anti-trafficking laws from the Home Office and regulations from the Department of Gender, Labor and Social Development. uncoordinated,” he said.

He also asked parliament to consider confining the association as a regulator of the sector.

“We know there are unregistered companies that are scamming money, if we are legally registered in the Official Gazette we could reprimand them, we would ensure ethical recruitment,” Akantambira said.

Rwabushaija said the association should prove that it was doing everything to clean up the sector, especially the illegal recruitment agencies.

“People come and say we paid our money to the bank and for a year we’ve been waiting, if they ask the company for money they’re threatened so as an umbrella you should be able to talk to these people and report them to the ministry,” she said.

MP Irene Linda (NRM, Fort Portal City) wondered if the association had the potential to regulate the sector.

“What have you done as an umbrella association, you have a responsibility, and in case the government decides to publish you, do you have the capacity?” she says.

The committee has asked the association to provide a list of countries where Ugandan domestic work is outsourced as it discusses a private member’s bill on labor outsourcing.

(With contributions from APO)