Last Friday, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, announced a ban on the recruitment of domestic workers to do casual work in Saudi Arabia and other countries until the recruitment process has been reviewed.
This is a welcome intervention by the government as there have been many reports of workers falling victim to abuse or running afoul of the law in the countries where they have been exported to work. This review process should address the matter from the root, that is, which type of people should we be exporting and for what type of work. Parliament had earlier recommended a halt to the recruitment of Ugandans to work abroad as housemaids.
This also brings into focus the agreement previously signed by the Labour ministry to export unemployed graduates as housekeepers. Is this the best we can do with our graduates and have we explored other employment avenues for this group of jobless youth? Are there countries which offer better employment terms? While the government effort to find employment for the youth is commendable, we should examine the employment offers carefully.
According to the Uganda National Household Survey report of 2012/2013, the working age population (14 to 64 years) was estimated at 16.4 million of which 82 per cent were working. The size of the working population was 13.9 million, but the size of the employed population was 7.9 million. Three quarters of the working population had either no formal schooling or primary level education.
The conclusion of the household survey is that the current definition of unemployment, that is, total lack of work, is out of sync with people’s perception of employment. People usually consider themselves employed when they can have aspirations of a long-time engagement with some reasonable conditions of employment.
One of the reasons behind our graduates’ quest to work abroad may not be about the total lack of opportunities at home, but the aspiration to earn more than what is on offer in the country. While it is an admirable effort by the young people seeking to better their lot, it is the government’s duty to ensure that those seeking employment do not fall prey to con artists and unfair employment terms.
In this vein, government should scrutinise the process of registration and regulation of recruitment firms in order to protect the often desperate job seekers from exploitation.
The issue: Labour export
Our view: Government should scrutinise the process of registration and regulation of recruitment firms in order to protect the often desperate job seekers from exploitation.