Skip to main content

Labor Exploitation of Kenyans in Gulf Countries

2CXTA7K A construction worker erects a scaffolding on a tunnel along the Nairobi-Thika highway project, under construction near Kenya's capital Nairobi, September 23, 2011. The road, which is being built by China Wuyi, Sinohydro and Shengeli Engineering Construction group, is funded by the Kenyan and Chinese government and the African Development Bank (AFDB). The project will cost 28 billion Kenyan shillings ($330million), according to the Chinese company. AfDB has cut the expected economic growth rate for Kenya in 2011 to 3.5-4.5 percent from an earlier forecast of 4.5-5 percent due to high inflation
Study finds East African workers commonly mistreated in Gulf Cooperation Council member nations
  • Client
    Global Fund to End Modern Slavery
  • Dates
    2020 - 2022


Vulnerable Kenyans pushed into overseas work.

High unemployment and a growing youth population continue to push Kenyans to seek higher wages abroad, including low-skilled migration from East Africa to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Despite the lure of relatively high-paying jobs, these workers are often poor, do not speak host-country languages, and lack strong in-country government and social support networks. These factors leave migrants vulnerable to becoming victims of forced labor and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. 


Estimate prevalence of forced labor in overseas labor recruitment (OLR). 

The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) commissioned NORC to estimate the prevalence of forced labor in the Nairobi Metro Area among recently returned Kenyan migrants from GCC countries (e.g., Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia). The goal was to produce precise estimates of forced labor in a well-defined target population. 


High levels of forced labor in OLR found. 

The prevalence of forced labor violations among the Kenyan migrant population in GCC countries was found to be over 95 percent. In essence, practically everyone heading to the GCC as a migrant worker from Kenya would become a victim of forced labor at some point.

Project Leads

Explore NORC Global Projects

Bangladesh Apparel Industry Study

Supporting efforts to improve worker protections in the informal ready-made-garment sector


Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

Building Evidence for Decision-Making (BE4D)

High-quality evidence, learning, and adaptive management services for USAID program decisions


U.S. Agency for International Development