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Abolishing Kuwait's Sponsorship System: A Step Forward?

On September 18, 2009

Kuwait's Social Affairs and Labor Minister Dr. Mohammed al-Ifasi recently announced that the government plans to abolish the sponsorship system in the country. The system requires every migrant worker to have a local employer as a sponsor in order to get a work permit. The foreign worker can't change jobs without the sponsor's consent. The almost-total dependence on the sponsor and lack of legal rights often leads to abuse of migrant workers.

Instead of the sponsorship system, the Ministry considers establishing a non-profit governmental authority that will be in charge of hiring and sponsoring migrant workers. The government body will bring the workers from abroad and assign them their job sector according to the needs of the Kuwaiti market. Abolishing the sponsorship system is a significant step forward. However, as Dr. Shamlan Yousef Al Eissa recently wrote, assigning a government bureaucracy over this issue will not bring an end to the abuse of migrant workers. Because the government is mired in corruption, its employees might abuse the law if it can be profitable to them.