Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment Prospects for Uganda's Youth in the Middle East

The brief examines the likely effects of COVID-19 on Uganda’s semi-skilled youth searching for employment opportunities in the Middle East. Ugandans employed as either semi-skilled or manual labourers in the Middle East increased from over 9,900 in 2010 to 21,000 in 2018. The main driver of labour externalization to the Middle East is the relatively high monthly wages offered for unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. Reports show that monthly remunerations range from $225 to $500 for domestic workers in Saudi Arabia; $350-$700 for a factory worker in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia; and $350-$600 for persons in catering services in Qatar and UAE. Likewise, one could earn between $300- $900 as a security guard in both. Uganda’s economy benefited as remittances from the Middle East grew from $51.4 million in 2010 to $309.2 million in 2018; a contribution of 23 per cent of the $ 1.3 billion the country earned through remittances in 2018. COVID-19 pandemic challenges this source of remittances to the Ugandan economy. The expected drop in labour migration to the Middle East brings to fore the need to support growth in other sectors identified in Uganda’s agro-industrialization (AGI) agenda. Alternatives include domestic production of critical supplies for COVID-19 containment, such as masks and sanitizers; expedition of the expansion of the cotton and textile sector to bridge the employment gap for youth and women.