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Job loss and wage theft: The grim reality of Kuwait’s F&B sector

As Kuwait attempted to contain the spread of COVID-19, authorities imposed a number of restrictions including lockdowns, curfews and banning certain social activities. The already struggling Food and Beverage (F&B) sector was hit hard, with operations suspended or restricted multiple times since the start of the pandemic.

While many restaurants and cafes adapted by providing frozen meals and DIY kits, they still faced huge losses. Despite the pandemic’s severe impact on many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the government did not provide financial assistance to the sector until last month, when parliament voted in favour of a draft bill to postpone loan instalments for business owners. 

Migrant workers employed in F&B have been the most affected, with many let go or going months without wages. 

[...] James, a Filipino cook working for a local restaurant, was one of the many that received a large salary cut. Between March 2020 and June 2020, all the employees received only KD25 (US$83) a month, a massive reduction from the contracted KD235 (US$780). “During those four months, I had a hard time paying rent so I had to borrow money from my friend. Also groceries and food, I would get from aid groups or from donations.”

[...] In order to ensure that migrant workers are protected in the future if a similar crisis arises, Kuwait should implement a social protection programme to safeguard against salary cuts and withholding of end-of-service benefits. In addition, PAM should clarify workers’ rights and employers’ obligations during this tumultuous time, and ensure that wage theft and other exploitative practices are appropriately punished.