KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwait announced Thursday it set a minimum monthly wage for maids working in the country, the first time the oil-rich emirate has set such a rule for its large foreign workforce of domestic helpers.
A notice published on the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry's website setting new rules for employment agencies listed the minimum salary as 60 Kuwaiti dinars ($198) a month. That comes after Kuwait's parliament approved a law in 2015 giving domestic workers rights such as a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave and a 12-hour working day with rest.
Kuwait, home to 3.7 million people, has the second-highest number of domestic workers in the Gulf, with around 660,000 people working in homes there, according to Human Rights Watch.
Many from Asia and Africa come to Gulf Arab countries to work as maids, often as the sole provider for their families back home. While some find success, others can face abuse or find themselves working in conditions far different than those promised by recruiters, trapped without their passports.
Workers also find themselves bound by Gulf countries' "kafala" system, which gives bosses considerable power over workers by effectively binding them to a given employer.
Lulu al-Rudaini, a member of the Human Line Organization that pressured Kuwait's government last year over the rights of domestic workers, called the ministry's announcement "good news."
"We certainly don't believe that the minimum wage should be compared to what workers can make in their home country," al-Rudaini said. "These workers live here and it should be an amount that reflects on how much life costs here. However, despite its imperfections, we are happy that there is something to work with now."