Nepal Kuwait

Nepal - Kuwait: Tackling fraud and abuse

The two core, interlinked practices of exploitative recruitment, the charging of illegal and exorbitant recruitment fees to migrant workers to secure jobs, and the use of deception or contract substitution by making false promises about jobs in destination countries to persuade them to commit to these fees, are prevalent in the Nepal-Kuwait corridor - a key part of the recruitment model, in fact.

Nepal continues to allow workers to be charged recruitment fees. The government has attempted to cap the limit at 10,000 rupees (US$ 83) for most workers - what it calls “zero cost” recruitment - and to enforce this through new bilateral agreements. In reality the vast majority of workers pay far in excess of this amount. The fact there is not a complete ban on fees, and poor policing of the upper limit, creates a grey zone for agencies to charge in excess of the limit, and the business model of recruitment agencies has therefore not changed since the introduction of the 2015 “Free Visa Free Ticket” policy. The vast majority of recruitment agencies still rely on charging workers extremely high fees, partly in order to be able to generate demand from employers in destination states, who are seeking the cheapest recruitment costs available and may have better offers from other origin states. While the Free Visa Free Ticket policy may have slightly reduced costs for workers, ultimately there is still no real market for ethical recruitment in Nepal. Meanwhile, the Nepali authorities have attempted to make contracts more transparent and accessible to migrant workers. However, serious problems with implementation persist. Many workers are not issued contracts, receive them just before travelling, or are given them in languages they do not understand. Since 2018 the government has sought to insert its embassies into the recruitment processes, to carry out proper checks on employers and their ability to offer the terms and conditions, but limited resources at embassies are a problem, and contract substitution remains widespread. Some experts believe the Foreign Employment Information Management System (FEIMS) may help to reduce the prevalence of contract substitution.

Kuwaiti law only explicitly prohibits the charging of recruitment fees to domestic workers. Its attempts to regulate recruitment fees also seem limited to domestic workers, with the newly created public- private Al-Durra domestic worker recruitment agency charged with reducing fees that Kuwait employers incur, rather than focusing on fee payment by workers. In general, the expectation appears to be that origin states should regulate this issue. Contract substitution and related deception over terms and conditions is widespread in Kuwait. It has been documented in detail with respect with domestic workers but prosecutions for deceptive recruitment are still rare.

Recommendations to the Government of Nepal:

  • Adopt the ILO’s definition of recruitment fees and related costs and mandate that Nepali employment agencies require foreign employers to pay all the costs of recruiting Nepali workers, including training and medical costs.
  • Stipulate in law that the full extent and nature of costs charged by recruitment agencies should be transparent to employers in destination states.
  • Provide explicit protection in law for workers who do not have a written contract.
  • Discuss with Qatar ways to increase the effectiveness of the QVC, including by allowing workers to “walk in” without an agent making an appointment for them, and for increasing the focus the QVC pays to fee payment.
  • Cooperate with other origin states to share information about abusive and exploitative employers in the Gulf.

Recommendations to the Government of Kuwait:

  • Fully prohibit the payment of recruitment fees and related costs, in line with the ILO definition, by migrant workers to employers and / or recruitment agencies, whether in Kuwait or an origin state.
  • Stipulate in law that the full extent and nature of costs charged by recruitment agencies should be transparent to employers in Kuwait.
  • Provide explicit protection in law for workers who do not have a written contract.
  • Establish and promote a process for all migrant workers to safely disclose to the authorities and seek reimbursement for any illegal payment of recruitment fees.
  • Incentivise ethical recruitment by requiring companies to budget transparently, and non-competitively, for recruitment costs in public procurement bidding processes.