The Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development has urged the government to expeditiously put systems in place to monitor Ugandans who labour in foreign countries as domestic workers.
This follows rampant cases of torture and death of Ugandan domestic workers abroad.
MPs said the government needed to emulate countries such as the Philippines whose labour export industry flourishes and workers are shielded from abuse.
“Saudi Arabia has a bilateral agreement with the Philippines and they are doing so well, their migrant workers are given a holiday every Christmas to go back home and they go in big numbers, they go with a lot of money”, said MP Margaret Rwabushaija (IND, Workers).
MPs made this call during a meeting with the Uganda Association of External Labour Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) on Thursday, 28 July 2022.
For countries such as Saudi Arabia where many cases of human rights violations have been registered, MPs said the government should increase the labour attachés to monitor workers in private homes.
MPs learnt from UAERA that Uganda has externalized 165,000 migrant workers to Saudi Arabia alone in the past five years and that the Ugandan consulate has only five staff.
Committee Chairperson Hon Flavia Kabahenda asked the government to utilize the annual tax collections from the sector to increase staffing at the Ugandan embassies.
“The tourism fund [should be] ploughed back into the tourism sector, so even the labour attaches can be paid from the tax revenue collected from the sector”. Kabahenlda said.
She however noted that there were different categories of taxes in the industry whose use was not known to the Public.
“We need to know the full amount a person pays by the time they reach the final employer, such that we track this money and see if it is meant to grow this sector or if its cash bonanza for some people”, said Kabahenda.
The Board Chairman for UAERA, Baker Akantambira said that for every migrant worker requested by the employer in the receiving countries, US$30 is paid to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
He added that migrant workers also pay airport tax at Entebbe airport in addition to the job application fees.
The sector, he said, earns Uganda an annual tax revenue of Shs4.5 trillion.
He asked Parliament to come up with a standard legal framework, saying currently the sector is regulated in non-uniformly.
“We have anti-trafficking laws by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and regulations by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. This brings confusion as we have members that have faced challenges due to uncoordinated legal network”, he said.
He also asked Parliament to consider ring-fencing the association as a regulator of the sector.
“We know there are some unregistered companies swindling money, if we are legally gazetted we could reprimand them, we would ensure ethical recruitment”, said Akantambira.
Rwabushaija said the association would need to show proof that they were doing anything to sanitize the sector especially the illegal recruitment agencies.
”People come and say we paid our money in the bank and for one year we have been waiting, if they demand money from the company they are threatened, so as an umbrella you should be able to talk to such people and report them to the ministry,” she said.
MP Irene Linda (NRM, Fort Portal City) wondered whether the association had the potential to regulate the sector.
“What have you done as an umbrella association, you have a responsibility, and in case the government decides to gazette you do you have the capacity?” she said.
The committee asked the association to provide a list of countries where Ugandan domestic labour is externalised as it moots a private member’s bill on labour externalization.