Government Must Protect Domestic Migrant Workers as part of the Solutions to Youth Unemployed in Ugandan

By Mugabo Rogers CESCRA Editorial team

Uganda is one of the few countries in Africa with hospitable and English speaking population especially the youth, who ideally would do well as corporate and casual workers in Middle East and other major job destinations like Canada, USA and Europe, which would absorb majority of Unemployed youth that Uganda as a country has for years failed to locally absorb in the job market.

Unfortunately, majority of Ugandans oversees have failed to fit in the job markets because they lack practical skills yet the workplace oversees demand 80% practical knowledge; this is because of the poor education system in Uganda which is largely theoretical. In addition, Ugandans oversees lack proper job orientation on encountering new cultures, needs and basic laws of the host countries yet most jobs for especially domestic workers oversees do not require high of academic background. Consequently, Ugandans have been cheated by employers or abducted by human trafficking agents, raped; and others work for a short time; get frustrated and return home with no savings. Ugandan institutions annually graduate about 40,000 youth and the local industry and government can only absorb about 8,000 bobs; this means majority youth in Uganda are job seekers who later find their way to oversees.

It should be noted that currently, Uganda exports over 12,000 labourers annually, which to my opinion is a step in the right direction toward solving youth unemployment that has of become a time bomb in Uganda. The problem is; after arriving oversees, they face dislocation hardships and are not traceable after departure. This in my view can be avoided by; (i) employing best practices that other people travelling abroad do; for example, states placing new embassy staff, and NGOs posting their staff oversees provide them training and orientation as part of the pre-departure programmes to help their staff encounter the new cultures and basic laws of the respective countries they are going to. (ii) states, NGOs and other agencies sign Memorandums of Understanding with the host countries (MOUs) on grounds of states cooperation in case of issues arising therein; Uganda can employ the same model in order to openly support and legally protect domestic workers oversees. And from a human rights perspective and on grounds of Social-economic benefits for Unemployed youth in Uganda, it’s my considered opinion that Advocacy Organisations such as Worldwide African Congress and the Honorable Speaker of Parliament – Rebecca Kadaga, should re-think the proposal on a total ban on the export of domestic workers to the Middle East.

As a government, Uganda understands the benefits of exported Labour, the role that government can play to ensure that the sector is regulated, managed by the relevant Ministry, guidelines are developed to guide companies engaged in exporting Labour. For example, Government developed the Employment (recruitment of Ugandan migrant workers abroad) Regulations in 2005 and Guidelines on Recruitment and Placement of Uganda migrant workers abroad in 2013. There is only need to raise awareness of these regulatory frameworks and ensure that they are being followed by agencies into the Labour export business.  As a result several and genuine companies have also sprung up in the Labour export business to assist migrant workers locate jobs in host countries and travel; however, very few help the migrant workers acquire or align their skills to the nature of jobs.

Uganda like any other developing country is challenged with levels of unemployment for its youth both skilled and unskilled. Increasingly, this population of unemployed young people in Uganda is risking the unknown to seek jobs in the diaspora. The practice of exporting labour started in a half hazard way back when young people used to migrate to Japan and U.A.E for work in the 1990s. The war in Iraq also opened door for many Ugandans to work under the arrangement of the American government mainly as security and other service based jobs; and informally once one acquired a passport, visa and flight ticket would be good to go. Eventually clandestinely people started to organized migration for others investing into travel arrangements giving brief interview and drills ensuring that the requirements and the funds needed get the opportunity to go regardless of the education status.
Contrary to the negativity the public and the media has on migrant workers to the Middle East, migrating for work in the era of increased unemployment is not only a relief for jobs to our young population, but a lucrative foreign exchange earnings in form of remittances to the country. Government has the primary responsibility to promote, protect, respect the human rights of all citizens including Labour rights of the youth thereby forging ways of entering into Bilateral agreements and memorandums of Understanding with both countries receiving domestic workers from Uganda, and Labour exporting companies to not only reduce the charges levied on youth migrating to Middle East, but also ensure the states’ legal and social protection to the youth in cases of reported torture, imprisonment, inhumane treatment and other forms of violence and human rights abuse to migrant workers.

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