KAMPALA —Companies involved in exporting workers have warned that Uganda will continue to lose out on several jobs for non-domestic workers in the Middle East if the government does not quickly scrap the job order fees of $30 (about Shs100,000).
The job order fee was introduced by the Gender ministry under the Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers) Regulations 2021.The money is to be paid for every non-domestic worker to be sent abroad.
But the labour export firms say this has made their work very costly, with many forced out of business.
The executive director of KHM International Consultants Limited, Mr Ibrahim Bogere, said since the introduction of the tax in August 2021, there has been a challenge with recruiting non domestic workers such as security guards, drivers and professional workers as individual workers have to meet the cost of the cost.
He added that Ugandans are losing out on a number of job opportunities as foreign companies always prioritise other countries like Kenya and Ghana without such prohibitive taxes.
“Government’s proposal to suspend 30 US dollars tax on every worker exported abroad is overdue, a number of opportunities have been diverted to other countries because the foreigner recruiters are not willing to pay the tax yet their countries without this requirement. Therefore, if the government come up with such a proposal, it is going to increase the number of recruitments and more money shall be flowing into the country,” Mr Bogere said in an interview on Wednesday.
The chairperson of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), Mr Baker Akantambira, said said government had promised to scrap the job order fee but is yet to do so.
According to a July 4, 2022, letter seen by this newspaper, the permanent secretary at Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr Aggrey Kibenge, wrote to the three ambassadors representing Uganda in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, seeking for their opinion on the proposed amendment of the Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers) Regulations 2021.
In the same letter the permanent secretary noted that Uganda has registered a reduction in the demand for non-domestic workers because the foreign recruitment agencies are not willing to pay the job order fees as stipulated in the Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant workers) Regulations, 2021.
“In the course of implementation of the Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant workers) Regulations, 2021, we have realised that the demand for non-domestic work job categories has gone down because the foreign recruitment agencies are not willing to pay the 30 US dollars per vacancy. The purpose of this letter therefore, is to seek for your opinion on the proposed amendment” the letter read in parts.
Mr Akantambira also wondered why government had to write to the ambassadors seeking for their opinions yet several meetings have been held to discuss the challenges that came with the tax.
“Writing to the ambassadors was not necessary in the question of tax because the minister had already promised to suspend the tax. We shall be grateful because this is going to increases the recruitments,” he said.
The Gender minister, Ms Betty Amongi, was not immediately available to comment on the matter while PS Kibenge was said to be on leave and the ministry spokesperson, Mr Frank Mugabi, referred us to the acting PS, Mr Martin Wandera, who is also the Director of labour at the ministry.
When contacted, Mr Wandera asked us to send him questions, saying he would respond to them but had not done so by press time.
However, Ms Amongi, while meeting labour eexport companies last month, said Cabinet had recommended that she reviews the existing laws on labour externalisation. She said her ministry was drafting a law, which she would again present to Cabinet.