Problem. Unemployment has forced many Ugandans to look for jobs abroad
Up to 65,000 Ugandans are doing odd jobs in the Middle East, the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), has said.
This is 15,000 higher than the number that was working there one year ago.
Most of them are working as either cleaners, waiters/waitresses, drivers, tailors, construction and factory workers or security guards.
“Their annual contribution in the form of remittances is $400,000,” the acting chairperson of the UAERA, Ms Lillian Keene Mugerwa, told the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, on Wednesday.
The committee had summoned the 63–member association to brief it on the members’ business.
Due to unemployment in Uganda, some of the Ugandans now working in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, sold family property to finance their travel to the Middle East.
Many Ugandans have been made to believe that the ‘returns’ there would be higher than they would ever make in Uganda.
In January 2016, the government banned the export of maids. The ban came on the heels of reports that many Ugandan workers were being mistreated by their Saudi Arabian employers.
Ms Mugerwa, who was accompanied by the managing director (MD) of Middle East Consultants Gordon Mugyenyi, the MD of Magrib Agencies Ltd, Ms Catherine Ocen Ssabwe and the general manager of Horeb Services, Mr Ezra Mugisha, urged government to lift the ban on the export of maids, saying the ban is not serving any purpose. “The ban was put in place without taking into account the fact the majority of the workers that were complaining (of mistreatment) had been deployed by (human) traffickers,” Ms Mugerwa said. “The few licensed companies...stopped. But as we stopped, the traffickers continued to export people to Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia stopped the influx, the traffickers are now taking maids to Oman.”
The Serere Member of Parliament, Patrick Okabe, said the ban should be lifted. “If we maintain the ban, people will find alternatives,” Mr Okabe said.
Ms Beatrice Anywar, the vice chairperson of the Gender Committee said the government should address the reasons that drive Ugandans abroad.
According to Action Aid (2012), six in every 10 Ugandans are unemployed. Some lack the skills employers need. In other cases, the economy is not expanding as fast as the labour force.