Kuwait considers reforms to kafala labour system

The new system reportedly includes rules preventing employers from confiscating passports



A Kuwaiti government committee is reportedly considering the cancellation of elements of the country’s kafala labour system for foreign workers.

Local newspaper Al-Rai cited informed sources on the committee as saying it is considering a proposal for the government to become the sponsor of all private sector employees.

Employer-employee relations would be regulated by contracts signed by both sides with the country’s manpower authority as the sponsor, according to the publication.

The contract would include provisions preventing employers from holding on to their employees’ passports or transferring them to work for other companies unless they cancel their residency visas and leave the country.

Doctors, engineers, managers and holders of university degrees will still be able to switch companies.

In addition, the contract would protect employees’ financial rights and require salaries to be paid through local banks to provide transparency in case of labour disputes.

However, employers would still hold some degree of control through a new residency card system. These cards would be used when departing the country to show the employer’s approval.

The reforms appear similar to those introduced by Qatar at the end of last year, which human rights groups said did not go far enough in protecting foreign workers.

Read: Qatar officially introduces labour reforms

The sources told the publication that the study was still under discussion and may include other measures to regulate the number of foreign workers in the country, by the introduction of nationality quotas and other measures.

MPs in the country have repeatedly called for measures to regulate the country’s foreign worker population in recent weeks.

Read: Kuwait MPs demand debate on expat population in Feb

Kuwaitis currently make up only 30 per cent of Kuwait’s 4.4 million population, according to recent estimates.

Yesterday, 11 lawmakers called for the formation of a temporary parliamentary panel to study the issue, according to Kuwait Times.

The motion will be submitted to the National Assembly today for discussion.

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