Kuwait adamant it will scrap controversial sponsorship system in February

October 4, 2010

Kuwait’s labour and social affairs minister pledged there would be no reversal of the decision to scrap the controversial sponsorship system.

“The ministry is moving forward with the cancellation of the sponsorship system in February,” Mohammad Al Afassi said.

A law to establish a work force authority for Kuwaitis and foreigners will be enacted by the parliament before the cancellation of the sponsorship system, the minister said, Al Shahed daily reported.

The authority will register all foreigners under its name and will oversee contracts between employers and workers and will monitor their implementation.

It will also be responsible for a worker’s job switch.

Initial reactions to Kuwait’s announcement last week that it would do away with a system that has been likened to modern-day slavery because sponsored foreigners cannot enter or leave the country or change jobs without their sponsors’ permission, ranged from warm welcome, mainly by activists and labour-exporting countries, to outright rejection, primarily among businesses, and skepticism by international rights groups.

Al Afassi’s statement is seen as a denial to claims that the labour ministry would cave in to demands to dismiss the idea of changing a system that has prevailed for decades in the Arabian Gulf countries despite harsh criticism.

According to Hadi Al Enzi, the deputy head of the labour disputes department, the ministry will set up three centres of 2,100 workers that will help meet the demands of employers in a bid to put an end to the phenomenon of marginalised workers. The centres will be used first whenever an employer wants people to work for him, he said.

Bahrain in 2009 became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to do away with the sponsorship system. The move waded into controversy after businesses rejected it and launched massive campaigns to force the labour minister to reverse it. However, Majeed Al Alawi withstood the onslaughts and resisted calls to resign and scrapped the system in August 2009.

Other GCC countries said that they would monitor the situation in Bahrain before making their decision.




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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