Kuwait’s Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) launched a new electronic service for labour disputes involving domestic workers. The new e-service will allow both domestic workers and employers to submit complaints.
It is currently unclear what languages the new service will operate in and whether it can accommodate migrant domestic workers adequately. Similar initiatives in other Gulf states indicate it is likely many migrant domestic workers will find it difficult to use and navigate the PAM e-service on their own; E-services in the Gulf tend to be developed without lower-income migrant workers as end-users in mind; languages, literacy rates, access to documentation and predictable internet access all present barriers to using these services.
Furthermore, e-services are not a substitute for reforms to broken access to justice mechanisms. In Kuwait and other Gulf states, complaint channels and services are heavily biased in favour of citizen-employers for the reasons mentioned above, as well as the uneven power dynamics of the Kafala system.
This bias is evident in PAM’s latest public statistics. In October 2022, PAM registered 1060 complaints about domestic labour, of which 909 of them were employer complaints against recruitment agencies and 49 against domestic workers. In the same period, PAM registered only 88 domestic worker complaints against employers. PAM also recorded 146 absconding charges against domestic workers and retrieved KD 140,657 (US$ 459,534) in recruitment fees for employers compared to only KD 2822 (US$ 9,219) compensation for domestic workers.
According to Kuwait’s Central Statistical Bureau, as reported by Kuwait Times, by the end of the first half of 2022, the number of domestic workers in Kuwait was around 750,000, or 37.5% of the total migrant workers in the country.