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Kuwait to scrap controversial sponsor system
March 26, 2014, 10:40 am

Kuwait will scrap the controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers and hand sole responsibility for recruiting expats to the newly established Labour Public Authority later this year, local media has reported.

The authority was approved by the parliament last year in a bid to reduce abuse of the sponsorship system, which requires employers to take responsibility for a foreign worker.

MPs argued the system – of which similar systems are used across the GCC – had too many loopholes that led to visa trafficking and even allegations of a widespread visa fraud ring within high levels of government, including members of the ruling family. The allegations are being investigated.

International human rights groups also have criticised the sponsorship programmes in Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which forbid employees from leaving the country or changing companies without the permission of their employer.

In January, Kuwait temporarily suspended the issuance and transfer of work visas until April 1.

Minister for Social Affairs and Labour Hind Al Subaih said the new system would end “all problems facing expatriate workers”, Kuwait Times reported.

Those “problems” included employers’ struggle to find appropriate workers and would ensure foreigners were hired according to Kuwait’s labour needs.

There are more than  2 million expats in Kuwait accounting for two-thirds of the total population.

There has been an increasing desire to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign workers, with the former minister for social affairs and labour announcing the number of expats would be cut by 100,000 each year until 2023 and opposition MP Abdullah Al Tameemi introducing draft legislation to drastically cut the number of expats and limit their visa to five years. The proposal has not been passed in parliament.

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