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Kuwait Ministry of Labour Suggests to Remove Sponsorship System

Kuwait : 19 December 2010

The Ministry of Labour has put forth three proposed plans to the Kuwait government in an effort to bring the nation’s sponsorship system to an end.

Both study data and various recommendations made by the Labour Ministry, the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the ALO (Arab Labour Organization) have formed the basis of each proposal, according to a source at the ministry.

An anonymous source spoke to Kuwait media Al Anbaa earlier this week and stated that the Ministry looked at both the specific conditions of the labour market in Kuwait and the recommendations from various global groups focusing on human and labour rights.

The first proposal consists of a government-run company that would be charged with recruiting and hiring workers of all kinds.  That organization would then sponsor each foreign worker in Kuwait, covering the private and public sectors.

In the second proposal there is a call to make it easier for expats to move around the labour market.  Within this plan a worker would have the ability to change jobs in Kuwait after a three year period or when the worker’s contract is complete.

The third proposal would place all expatriate workers in both the private and public sectors under the authority of an independent manpower organization.  In this plan the expats would receive a work permit allowing them to be employed in any Kuwait establishment.

In that instance the expat would surrender their passport to the authority as a guarantee to their employer that they will stay put.  The worker would then be given an employment card.  When the expat worker can produce proof that his or her employer has authorized travel beyond Kuwait’s borders they can obtain their passport again.

The third suggestion may carry its fair share of controversy since many global human rights organizations see a passport as a person’s property and would view the practice of an authority holding onto it as a violation of the worker’s rights.

The current sponsorship system is viewed as controversial and harsh, causing Kuwait to commit to abolishing it in 2011 even though the nation’s business community is strongly opposed.

In August of last year Bahrain’s sponsorship system was scrapped and foreign workers within that nation can now move about easily.

The Labour Minister in Bahrain, Majeed Al Alawi has been quoted stating that the nation’s system is a modern version of slavery.  He has also been a driving force around the Gulf region to abolish sponsorship systems, even in the face of strong opposition from businesses and others who benefit from the systems.

Various rights groups in the Gulf region and beyond have made repeated calls to eliminate the controversial system.

Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News
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