At least an average of 7,724 migrant workers left Uganda per month in 2022 in search of employment in the Middle East, according to data from Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. 

The details are contained in a Ministry of Gender migrant labour report that covers 11 months to December 2022. 

The 7,724 monthly average returned an annual total of 84,966, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, taking in the largest number of Uganda’s migrant workers. 

Of the 84,966, at least 77,914 migrant workers went to Saudi Arabia, of which 55,643 were mainly housemaids. 

Saudi Arabia has a bilateral trade agreement with Uganda, which could explain why it takes in more migrant workers than other countries. 

Mr Milton Turyasiima, the Ministry of Gender assistant commissioner employment services, at the weekend told Monitor, Uganda also has a bilateral agreement with United Arab Emirates but was not functional while the one with Jordan was suspended because of difficulty in monitoring brought about by a long distance between the supervising embassy, which is in Riyad, Saudi Arabia. 

Uganda, he said, earns an annual average of $600m (Shs2.2 trillion) from migrant labour to the Middle East, of which, the largest chunk comes from Saudi Arabia. 

During the period, Qatar received 3,549 migrant workers from Uganda while United Arab Emirates received 1,949. 

Iraq and Somalia, which received 804 and 648 workers, respectively, rounded off the top five destinations for Uganda’s migrant workers. 

Other migrant workers, Ministry of Gender data indicates, went to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, among others. 

The data also  indicates that housemaids formed the largest number of migrant workers with about 55,643 Ugandans travelling to the Middle East as housemaids during 2022. 

This was followed by cleaners, who in the 11 months to December, stood at 4,870, while 1,476 were security guards. During the period 499 and 172 Ugandans travelled to the Middle East as waitresses and waiters and drivers, respectively. 

The data, which covers 11 months to December during 2022, excluding performance details for October, provides details of most sought after destinations and the type of work or services that Ugandans are offering in the Middle East.  

Ministry of Gender data also indicates that there has been a rapid surge in the number of Ugandans that travel to the Middle East, with the number growing fourfold from an average of 24,086 between 2016 and 2021 to 84,966 in 2022 . 

In the last 10 years, Uganda has experienced rapid growth in migrant workers, especially to the Middle East. 

However, majority are involved in casual labour, with an average pay of Shs1m.  The growth has largely been due to acute unemployment and a serious lack of access to capital for entrepreneurship. 

However, a section of Ugandans have criticised government for failing to put in place government-to-government policies that protect the rights of migrant workers, majority of whom work in the Middle East.   
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