KUWAIT: Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Sabah yesterday issued a decision setting KD 60 as the minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers in Kuwait, in the first such step in the country.

In a decision setting bylaws for implementing a landmark legislation regulating hundreds of thousands of domestic helpers in the country, the ministry also mandated that offices recruiting maids from overseas must submit a bank guarantee worth KD 40,000 valid for two years at the time of establishing the office or renewing its license.

The decision sets the procedures for settling disputes between maids, their employers or offices, which are required to provide an employment contract for them. The interior ministry’s domestic helpers department is entrusted with the powers to resolve such disputes within three months. The law, passed by the Assembly last year, grants domestic helpers unprecedented rights including limiting daily working hours to eight, a mandatory weekend and a 30-day paid annual leave.

For the first time, maids are entitled to demand overtime for working extra hours. The law bans the employment of maids under 20 years and above 50 years of age. It also stipulates one maid for families of up to four, two maids for families comprising five to eight members and three maids for families consisting of more than eight people. The law also stipulates for the first time an end of service indemnity for maids equal to a month’s pay for each year of service. The law applies to private drivers, maids, babysitters and cooks.

The Assembly had also passed another law stipulating to set up a shareholding company to recruit domestic helpers. At present, the company and offices will work side by side. Under the law, 60 percent of the proposed company’s shares will be given to the union of cooperative societies and 10 percent each to four government agencies including Kuwait Investment Authority, Public Institution for Social Security, Public Authority for Minors Affairs and Kuwait Airways.

According to the latest available figures, there are around 600,000 domestic helpers in Kuwait, the overwhelming majority of whom are Asian. MP Ahmad Lari welcomed the interior ministry’s decision to issue the bylaws, and described it as a civilized law. He added that the Assembly will introduce any necessary amendments to the law whenever the need exists.

MP Ahmad Ashour yesterday presented amendments to the social assistance law under which he proposed that monthly assistance be provided to needy married Kuwaiti women when they reach 40 years of age, down from the current age of 55. He also proposed that Kuwaiti women married to foreigners or stateless people should be given social assistance, housing allowance, child allowance as well as social allowance like their male counterparts.

Meanwhile, the total numerical distribution of labor force in Kuwait hit 1.8 million, including 344,600 Kuwaitis and 1.5 million non-Kuwaitis, the Central Statistical Bureau announced yesterday. The bureau’s annual report showed that male Kuwaiti employees make up 10.3 percent of the workforce, while female Kuwaiti employees make up a higher percentage with 54.8, according to statistics ending on Dec 2015.

Employees in the government sector amounted to 373,000 – Kuwaitis seizing the lion’s share with 73.6 percent, while non-Kuwaitis make up 26.4 percent. In the private sector, 1.4 million employees were registered. The total numeric distribution for the non-Kuwaiti labor force recorded 89.7 percent for males and 45.2 percent for females. The top three nationalities in Kuwait’s labor market are Indians at 25.8 percent, Egyptians at 23.3 percent and Kuwaitis at 18.6.

By B Izzak