Despite being an almost ideal country for expats, Kuwait, being an Arab country is still far from the heaven expats hope it would be.
As a country, it also faces challenges in providing jobs for its local manpower resources; hence the term Kuwaitization. Also, one of the most controversial aspects of working in a country such as Kuwait is the sponsorship (kafala system).
Kuwait to Explore Removal of Kafala System
The Minister of State for Economic Development Mariam Al-Aqeel will soon be holding a ministerial meeting to discuss the merits and disadvantages of cancelling the sponsorship (kafala) system, as part of the measures to be explored by the government to address the demographic and labour market issues in the country, as shared in a report by Kuwait Times.
For many years already, a number of local and international rights groups have expressed opposition against the kafala system for expats, which has long been criticized as a form of bonded labour.
The government can also see the merits of the need to cancel the system after its previous bid to fight visa trafficking has failed in the past. This will also improve Kuwait’s ranking on the list of international organizations such as the International Labour Organization and human rights groups.
Should the suggestion push through, this will still align with Kuwait’s policies of replacing expats with Kuwaitis, particularly those in administrative positions in the private sector, which reflects the government’s initiative to replace all expats in the public sector with citizens in five years’ time.
The proposed changes will follow Saudi Arabia’s experience on this regard and pursue the appointment of citizens in administrative posts in the private sector and companies which will not comply will have to settle some kind of special taxes.
There remains to be different forms of the kafala system still observed across Gulf States, as well as in other Arab countries. The system has drawn international attention and strong opposition from labour and human rights groups for exploiting workers and denying them basic rights, such as the ability to travel or change jobs. Also, employers often keep their workers’ passports despite the fact that this is considered illegal in most countries.