Kuwait starts consultations over scrapping controversial sponsorship system

October 12, 2010

Mohammad Al Afassi

Kuwait’s labour ministry has launched consultations with other government authorities on its proposed move to scrap the controversial sponsorship system early next year.

Last month, Mohammad Al Afassi, the labour and social affairs minister, said that Bahrain would do away with the harshly-criticised system in February. Contracts between employers and foreign employees and labourers would be under a national government authority in a move that would help put an end to trafficking in work and residence visas and upholds rights.

The labour ministry now hopes that some of the prerogatives of the Manpower and Government Restructuring Programme will be shifted the manpower public authority that will be established as one of the alternative to the ‘kafeel’ (sponsorship) system, Kuwait Times reported on Tuesday.

However, the labour minister will face an uphill struggle against businesses who have voiced their opposition to the elimination of the system on the grounds that it would cause them heavy losses.

In Bahrain, a similar move to cancel the sponsorship system last year led to bitter standoffs between the labour ministry and businesses amid warning that the local economy would collapse and the country’s stability would be eroded. Bahrain officially implemented the decision in August.

Kuwait now wants to follow suit and its move was this week discussed by labour ministry and agency officials and a team from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Kuwaitis highlighted the procedures to be taken by the Kuwaiti government to eliminate the sponsorship system and explained to the New-York based rights watchdog their plans and the role of the Manpower Public Authority.

According to the officials, the authority will consist of a manpower recruiting department, a financial and administrative department, a legal department, a planning and development department and manpower affairs department.

At least 13 subdivisions will be affiliated to the five departments, including a newly established subdivision to assess the requirements of public firms, the newspaper said.

However, another option considered by the labour ministry is the establishment of a shareholding public corporation that will sponsor all employees in Kuwait’s public sector.



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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