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Labour exporting companies to close shop due to gov't restrictions

By Maurice Okore

Added 16th October 2020 07:22 PM

Last March, the government suspended the externalisation of labour to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Iraq to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Labour exporting companies to close shop due to gov't restrictions

Some of the Ugandan girls who sought work in the Middle East

Last March, the government suspended the externalisation of labour to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Iraq to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Ugandans looking to work abroad will have to wait for a while as labour exporting companies have announced that they are shutting down due to the restrictions imposed on them by the Ministry of Labour, Gender, and Social Development.

Last March, the government suspended the externalisation of labour to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Somalia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Iraq to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Baker Akantabira, the chairperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), an umbrella body that brings together all labour externalisation companies in Uganda said the government's reluctance to re-open the sector amidst tight regulations had cripppled their operations.

"Whereas the suspension of externalisation of labour was inevitable given the prevailing conditions (globally), the current move by the Ministry yo unilaterally undertake measures directly affecting the labour companies is disturbing," Akantabira said.

"Labour exporting companies have had to close given the recurrent operational costs such as rent and salaries which they have found impossible to sustain. Due to the suspension, 4,000 Ugandans directly employed by these companies have also been rendered jobless and 35,000 employment opportunities for Ugandans have been lost in the last seven months," Akantabira said.

He said that the continued closure of their business has also given chance to unscrupulous individuals who exploiting the current situation to carry out human trafficking which at the end is blamed on their registered Labour Recruitment Companies.

"The general public is therefore advised to consult the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development on all aspects pertaining to externalisation of migrant workers. All foreign partners and principals are advised to see further information and consult the Ministry, respective Ugandan embassies, and other Government agencies," Akantabira said.

He added that the prolonged suspension of their activities could affect the country as it would no longer realise the monthly income from non-tax remittances estimated at sh2.2b as well as foreign remittances estimated at $700m.

However, on Tuesday, the Government said it was reviewing the suspension and that it had written to the Health Minister seeking advice on the feasibility of reopening the externalisation of labour.

"Even if clearance is given by the Ministry of Health and the National Taskforce on COVID-19, it is our considered view that the reopening should be phased. The first phase will start with the clearance of all categories of migrant workers other than domestic workers," the Gender ministry said in a statement by the permanent secretary Aggrey David Kibenge.

"The Government would also like to put in place additional measures aimed at promoting and protecting the welfare and rights of Ugandans workers abroad. To this end, the Ministry will engage all stakeholders including private recruitment companies."

In response to the Government statement, Akantabira said  UAERA was open to exploring modalities to safeguard Ugandans and having a robust and well-regulated industry and that this can only be achieved with stakeholder engagement. He appealed to the Gender Ministry to engage labour companies to find sustainable solutions.

Uganda currently has 187 recruitment firms licenced by the labour ministry.

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