Bahrain has proposed a new law aimed at regulating the recruitment of domestic workers, including a ceiling on recruitment fees and workers’ salaries. According to recent reports from local media, Adel Bin Abdul Rahman Al Asoumi, a member of Bahrain's Shura Council, is putting forward a proposal to establish price ceilings, and outline the contractual conditions and responsibilities of recruitment agencies in cases involving domestic workers who abscond.
The draft law also calls for Bahrain to sign labour agreements with sending countries to "ensure recruitment fees and salaries remain within specific limits".
According to the proposed draft law, the fees for recruiting domestic workers must not surpass BD550 (US$1458), and the domestic workers' monthly salary should not exceed BD120 (US$320), with an annual increase of BD2 (US$5.31). Moreover, recruitment agencies will assume responsibility when domestic workers ‘abscond’. This includes covering the costs of deportation tickets and compensating the employer.
If passed, Bahrain would be the first country to impose a maximum salary without stipulating a minimum wage. The proposed maximum salary is also less than the minimum salary required by the Philippines Embassy’s standard contract for Filipino domestic workers in Bahrain, which stands at US$400. It is unclear how the new law if implemented, will affect existing domestic worker contracts with higher salaries.
Details of the law that are public makes no mention of protection of domestic workers’ rights, but is centred around the needs of employers alone. Bahrain has some of the weakest protections for domestic workers in the Gulf, with no specific domestic workers' law, and the exclusion of domestic workers from most labour law protections.
Except for Qatar and Kuwait, there are no minimum wages for domestic workers in the Gulf. Certain embassies, like the Philippines, will only approve contracts for their nationals that meet the minimum wage they have established, but enforcement is only under their purview.
In recent years, Gulf countries have increased their efforts to reduce the cost of employing domestic workers for their citizens. This usually entails increasing labour supply and imposing limits on recruitment fees, but not implementing a maximum wage ceiling for domestic workers, who are already among the lowest-paid workers in the region.