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Kuwait sets minimum wage for its maids

Kuwait has set a minimum wage for its hundreds of thousands of mostly Asian domestic workers, in a first for Gulf states which have come under widespread accusations of abuse.

A decree issued by Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Khaled Al-Sabah set the minimum wage at 60 dinars ($200 or P9,317) a month and also granted domestic staff a raft of other rights, Al-Anbaa newspaper reported on Thursday.

Kuwait is the first country in the Gulf to regulate the work conditions of domestic staff through legislation and Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other rights groups have urged others to follow suit to tackle widespread abuses.

The decree, which sets out measures to implement a landmark law adopted by parliament last year, also requires employers to pay overtime for any extra hours worked.

It grants domestic workers the right to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-of-service benefit of one month a year at the end of contract.

The estimated 600,000 maids in Kuwait are among at least 2.4 million working at homes across the Gulf. They are not covered by ordinary labor legislation.

HRW and other groups have documented widespread abuses, including non-payment of wages, long working hours with no rest days, physical and sexual assault, and no clear channels for redress.

In its 2016 Trafficking in Persons report, the US State Department upgraded Kuwait from tier 3, the worst level, to tier 2 while keeping it on watch list, citing an improvement in its treatment of migrant workers, including maids.

The report places the other five Gulf Arab states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates – at the same level as Kuwait. (AFP)

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