Kuwait reinstates ban on work under summer scorching sun

May 31, 2010

Kuwait will on June 1 reinstate a ban on summer midday work that allows labourers to escape the scorching afternoon sun.

Under the ban, no labourer should be made to work in open areas between noon and 4pm, Mohammad Al Afassi, the labour and social affairs minister, said.

The ban covers the months of June, July and August.

Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE have recently been enforcing a ban on outside work during the hottest hours of the summer despite attempts by members of their powerful business communities to resist it.

Hundreds of thousands of labourers, mainly from Asia, are employed in the Gulf states booming construction sector under the controversial sponsorship system that places them at the mercy of their employers who could force them to work in all weather conditions.

The system has been widely condemned, and in April, Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, on a tour in the region criticized the system that “rigidly binds migrants to their employers, enabling the latter to commit abuses, while preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country.”

Steps taken by local governments to overhaul labour laws and give labourers more rights have been relentlessly challenged by local businesses that benefit from the sponsorship system.

Bahrain’s labour minister Majeed Al Alawi has been under a barrage of fire for spearheading a move to scrap the system and allow foreigners to switch jobs more easily and without the consent of their sponsors.

Businesses have since 2008 complained that eliminating the system would result in heavy financial losses and ominous market instability. Al Alawi remained unfazed and refused to reverse the decision implemented since August 1, 2008.

Kuwait this year introduced a new labour law that, although it did not do away with the sponsorship system, has given labourers more rights and better protection.

Around 15 million foreigners are believed to be working in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, mainly in the construction sector and as domestic helpers.

The massive number has often been likened by senior Gulf officials to a time bomb that would blast local cultures, norms, economy and politics.

“The reliance by Gulf Arabs on foreign labour to carry out even the simplest tasks is an Asian tsunami in the offing, which represents a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack,” said Al Alawi who has been championing the imposition of a five-year-cap on the residence of unskilled foreigners in the Gulf.






About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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