Taking a cue from Bahrain and Kuwait, Qatar is now planning to cancel the controversial sponsorship system to tighten control over foreign workers according to Qatari prime-minster Shaikh Hamad.
"The government is studying very carefully the issue to ensure that the rights of Qatari citizens, employees and those who come to work in Qatar are all preserved. There is a crucial need to ensure there is balance between all rights," he was quoted as saying by the Qatar News Agency.
Under the present Kafeel system, foreigners cannot enter, work in, switch jobs in or leave a Gulf country without the approval of a sponsor who has full control over their movements. The system has often been described by critics as modern-day slavery.
Meanwhile, the UAE Minister of Labour told a meeting of the Federal National Council that the sponsorship system is under review and may be scrapped.
Bahrain and Kuwait are the only other Gulf countries to cancel the system. Bahrain abolished the system in 2009, and Kuwait reportedly plans to do so by February.
November 12, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The so-called Kafeel or sponsorship system prevalent in the Gulf, has been often the subject of criticism by human right groups around the world. It has often led to serious disputes between employees and employers. In more serious situations, riots broke out during the past year, particularly by construction workers in the UAE protesting delay in salary payments and demanding better conditions. In almost all cases, the demonstrators were deported from the country.
Whilst the UAE and Qatar have taken steps to address some of the usual grievances of delay of salary payments, the restrictions imposed by the Kafeel system continues to be a blot on the Gulf labour markets. With Qatar and the UAE reportedly considering scrapping the system, it is likely this will lead to better labour conditions, increased competitiveness and a better attraction of talent from around the world.