The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA) increased the minimum wage for Ethiopians that travel to the Middle East in search of jobs from USD 180 to USD 250 via a renewed directive.
In spite of the outrageous stories told about the treatment of Ethiopians working in the Middle East, the queue of people at the immigration office, other related government institutions and Embassies is surprisingly lengthening from time to time. Mostly women form these lines are the ones who usually require the necessary documents to travel to these countries. For just a meager salary of USD 180, these people provide the workforce, usually unskilled, that Middle Eastern states need, while Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers receive anything from USD 450 to USD 500 with more favorable work conditions.
Many complain by saying that all the reported abuse and harassment that Ethiopians experience in the Middle East results from lack of adequate custody or protection from the government. The government repeatedly claims that the problem keeps recurring because many Ethiopians choose to go to the Middle East via irregular or illegal means. Furthermore, the level of education and qualification of people who travel to these places is low; therefore, they are easily exposed to abuse and harassment because they don’t know what to do or how to go about seeking justice in foreign countries. The government issued an Employment Exchange Services Proclamation in 2009 to protect its citizens from such harassments and abuses. However, after six years in existence, the proclamation has borne little fruit. As a result, MoLSA recently issued this renewed directive to address and amend issues covered by Employment Exchanges Services Proclamation No, 632/2009 and also issues that weren’t previously covered by it, according to Emebet Mulu, the Vice Director of Communication at MoLSA.
As per the latest directive, not only was the minimum wage increased, but it requires any employer to receive a monthly income of not less than USD 1,000 and the Ethiopian Consular offices in these countries are required to check and verify the authenticity of employers and their good conduct towards employees, said Emebet.
In addition, the new directive, which came into effect on March 10, 2013, prohibits women who haven’t received training at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in Ethiopia and haven’t passed the Certificate of Conformance (COC) exams, from traveling for work to the Middle East. Women are also obliged to attend pre-dispatch trainings provided by the Ministry.
The trainings given at TVETs, which should at least be for three months, are to enhance their skills, while pre-dispatch trainings are to build awareness about the situations that exist in Middle Eastern countries.
Currently, Ethiopian domestic workers are allowed to legally travel to only two Middle East countries; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The government has recently signed agreements with the governments of Jordan and Qatar to provide trained domestic workers whose rights will be protected by all signatories, stated Emebet.
In the 2009/2010 fiscal year, the number of Ethiopian domestic workers legally employed in the Middle East was about 15,000. Surprisingly, the number went up to a little over 42,000 and 199,000 during the following two years and most of them are female.