As Saudi Arabia is set to abolish the kafala system, how will it affect the migrant workers?

The new system would have allowed migrant workers to terminate their contract without their employer's consent.

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(Fayez Nuruldine / AFP)

Saudi Arabia is planning to abolish the disputed kafala sponsorship system for migrant workers, according to a report by the Saudi online financial publisher Maaal.

According to the report, Maaal cited anonymous sources to outline that Riyadh would announce the system’s scrapping next week to replace a new contractual relationship between expatriate employees and their employers. The reform is due to take effect in the first half of 2021.

(AFP)

The kafala system ties migrant workers to one sponsor, whose permission they need to change jobs, open a bank account, or leave the state. Over 10 million workers in Saudi Arabia are currently subject to the system.

Human rights groups have often criticized the policy as exploitative and a form of modern slavery.

The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development announced on Wednesday that it was “working on many initiatives to organize and develop the labor market, and it will be announced as soon as it is ready.”

“The ministry calls upon everyone to obtain information from its official sources,” it said in response to the report.

The move would form part of Saudi’s Vision 2030 economic strategy, which seeks to modernize the kingdom and move it away from an oil-reliant economy.

The kafala system has been criticized throughout the region, with many neighboring countries taking steps to reform it.

Qatar declared plans to abolish the system in October last year. However, it continues to be in effect.

In Lebanon, implementing a new contract system replacing kafala was suspended earlier this week after an appeal was lodged by the coalition of Domestic Worker Recruitment, who opposed the proposals.

The new system would have allowed migrant workers to terminate their contract without their employer’s consent and guarantee a weekly rest day, overtime pay, sick pay, annual leave, and the national minimum wage.

What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.


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