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Kuwait Makes Baby Steps to Reform Sponsorship System

On August 9, 2009

The Al Watan Daily, Arab Times and Kuwait Times newspapers are reporting that Kuwait's Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is making small moves towards the abolishment of the "kafeel" sponsorship system, beginning with allowing expatriot workers in the private sector to transfer their residencies without the approval of their sponsor.

This leniency is granted provided on the condition that the worker has been with the sponsor at least three years before transferring residency.  The Minister, Dr, Mohammed AlـIfasi, spoke to reporters of Al Rai at a Kuwait Pearl Diving Ceremony and, as the Al-Watan Daily reports,  also mentioned that the entire Department would also go under a drastic restructuring to facilitate reforms of the sponsorship and cut bureaucracy.

According to The Kuwait Times, Dr. Al-Ifasi was quoted as saying that, "they are being sold for certain sums of money as if we were living in the age of slavery."

The Arab Times interviewed several leading politicians and academics about their opinions on the overhaul of Kuwait's current sponsorship scheme.  One of these, Dr Humaid Qanas, exercised caution in implementing proposals without a solid and well-researched understanding of the underlying problems, noting that similiar countries that have abolished the system only did so after many years of conducting studies before implementing policies.

"Stating that Kuwait is fond of putting attractive titles on such a vital issue, but there will be no traces of its functions at the end of the day, Qanas urged the government to assign specialists to study the proposal and put the final touches for its full implementation.

“The issue is similar to many other proposals like the housing, education and healthcare projects, which do not have clear plans or serious inclination for success. We should get it right this time, because the issue has dented Kuwait’s image in the international community,” the academician suggested."