Working in any GCC member nation for most people from third-world countries including the Philippines appears as a promise to workers as a way out of their dire economic conditions back home. However, this does not only hold true for Filipinos who have become part of the Kuwait labour force for decades, but also for other nationals such as those coming from Egypt and other African nations.
But with this offer of a better prospect of employment and (supposedly) life, one of the major challenges that come along with it is the kafala (sponsorship) system, which has been widely adopted by several GCC nations including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
Kuwait Labour: How is the Kafala System being Addressed in the GCC?
Recently, however, calls for the abolishment of the kafala system, which according to expats who have been working under this system is a form of “modern-day slavery,” has been raised following the memorandum of understanding signed by Kuwait and Egypt last Dec 5, as shared in a report by Al-Monitor.
The said agreement aims to regulate the sponsorship of Egyptian workers through an e-linkage system. The memorandum, in theory, is lobbying for the elimination of the controversial sponsorship system under which migrant workers fall under.
And while the said memorandum of agreement signed with the Egyptian Ministry of Manpower is expected to be put into effect in 2019, the exact date of implementation has yet been determined.
The kafala system has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations for a long time now. And with the negative attention it has gained, Bahrain stepped up and became the first GCC nation to end this system in 2009.
According to a report shared by the International Labour Organization in 2017, the existing sponsorship regimes in the Middle East has created an asymmetrical power relationship between employers and migrant workers – which can hold workers, especially migrant domestic workers, at risk to forced labour.
For the longest time, the kafala system was intended to give nationals a chance to look after the non-nationals. However, the abuse of power and the malpractices associated with it became the focal point of human rights advocate and labour organizations, in their bid to take down the system once and for all.