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Malawi, Kuwait to sign bilateral labour agreement

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About three years after a dubious labour export deal between Malawi and South Korea, government is on the prospect of signing a bilateral labour migration agreement with the Government of Kuwait.

In 2013, former president Joyce Banda told Malawians that she had struck a labour deal which would see some jobless Malawians trekking to South Korea for employment opportunities but it was later discovered the said deal was just a sham.

Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, recently visited Kuwait to initiate discussions on the conclusion of the agreement which will be used to regulate labour migration between the two countries and also as a framework for engagement on issues of mutual concern.

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Mussa said Kuwait’s Minister of Social Affairs and Labour who is also Minister of State for Planning and Development, Hind Sabih Barak Subaih, has welcomed the idea of a bilateral labour agreement.

“I left a draft copy of the agreement that my Ministry had drafted with her and she expressed the hope that it would be ready for signing by the end of three months [around November 2016] after she has studied,” Mussa said.

He also said Subaih welcomed the request to extend Visa 18 to Malawi.

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According to Mussa, he went to Kuwait to negotiate for the inclusion of Malawi on Visa 18, which covers a wide range of skills such as teaching, nursing, bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, welding and metal fabrication, tailoring, ICT and renewable energy.

“This would enable Malawi to export to Kuwait excess skilled labour which is more beneficial as compared to the export of unskilled labour,” he said.

Mussa, however, emphasised that this will be restricted to excess labour as the country also needs skilled labour to develop.

“She [Kuwait minister] disclosed that there was a lot of construction work taking place in Kuwait leading to an increase in the demand for skilled labour. She therefore requested for a list of skills that Malawi was ready to export for consideration by the Kuwait government. She singled out, in particular, English teachers, nurses and skilled workers in the construction industry,” Mussa said.

He said during his visit, the Kuwait government acknowledged the problem of treatment of housemaids in Kuwait generally and not just those from Malawi.

Kuwait has passed a new law on domestic workers, which is only six months old, aimed at increasing the level of protection of human and labour rights of domestic workers.

“In Kuwait, this law is under the Ministry of Interior [or Home Affairs as in the case of Malawi]. She further informed our delegation that her government had established a company to take charge of all recruitment of foreign workers in order to check their abuse which she attributed largely to private employment agencies,” he said.

As negotiations are taking place, however, Malawi has asked Kuwait government to stop issuing of Visa 20 which the employment agencies use in the migration of unskilled labour.

This is in the wake of abuses that 20 Malawian ladies, together with their counterparts from other African countries, who went to Kuwait for unskilled labour such as being housemaids, have been experiencing in the hands of their employers.

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