India and Kuwait have at last put in place a transparent, formal system to end the exploitative recruitment of nurses. On Sunday, Kuwait’s Ministry of Health and the Indian Embassy in the country signed an agreement that henceforth Indian nurses can only be hired through three Indian government agencies, charging a modest registration fee of about $300.
Previously, private recruiting agents would take extortionate bribes (from approximately $19,000- $38,000) to place a nurse in a Kuwaiti position. Just as bad, many “jobs” were part of the scam and didn’t last long, so recruiters could keep bringing in more nurses and pocketing their fees. In another example of deception, over 800 nurses recruited by Al Zarafa Travels and Manpower Consultants were not given high-paying jobs (up to $3,850/month) in Kuwaiti government hospitals as promised. Instead, most were placed in school health programs paying only a third as much, and some were reported jobless.
Spurred by media reports of widespread abuses earlier in the year, India banned overseas recruitment of nurses by private agencies as of April 30. And even though the government designated three agencies to handle the recruitment of nurses for overseas work in March, and bilateral talks began between Kuwaiti and Indian officials, until now there remained much uncertainty over how things would play out.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health now plans to recruit nearly 3,000 nurses within a year. The majority of them will be from the Indian state Kerala, through Norka (the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department) Roots, which is one of the three authorized agencies. Kuwait will register in the Indian government’s e-migrate system and put up demands for the number of nurses the country requires from India, Norka secretary Rani George said. (Employers will be able to choose the recruiting agency.) Norka is in the process of preparing a database of nurses looking for employment abroad, he added.
Hopefully bureaucratic corruption in the new system won’t be nearly as burdensome as the previous private-sector abuse. Investing in quality medical education can and should lead to a well-paying job where it is needed.