Ethiopia and the UAE have agreed to expedite a labour exchange agreement, under discussion between the two countries for the last several years.
Ethiopia banned the deployment of domestic and blue-collar workers to the UAE in 2012, in response to frequent complaints of unpaid wages and abuse. Ethiopia then implemented a blanket ban on all “unskilled” workers to the Middle East countries in 2013, prompted in particular by uproar at the mistreatment and mass deportation of Ethiopians in Saudi. The government pledged to secure better protection for these workers, including a higher minimum wage, through bilateral agreements. According to the Ethiopian News Agency, agreements have been signed with Kuwait, Qatar, and Jordan in 2016, and with Saudi Arabia in 2017, though Ethiopia has not yet lifted the ban on domestic worker recruitment. Ethiopia’s Overseas Employment Proclamation, announced in 2016 but still awaiting implementation, only allows workers to migrate to countries with a bilateral labour agreement in place.
The ban did not prevent Ethiopians seek job opportunities from entering the UAE, or elsewhere in the region. As our Stories of Origin series highlights, prospective migrants are either unaware or unfazed by the ban.
Ethiopian and Emirati authorities have at various times over the past several years announced that an agreement is “close,” and in 2016 the lingering disagreement was reported to be the minimum wage. But, the UAE’s recent domestic worker law may provide the framework to finalise the agreement.
An estimated 100,000 Ethiopians currently reside in the UAE, with over 60% in the domestic work sector.