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The number of requests for job changes and rejections are on the rise in Qatar. Moreover, he rejections of new recruitment requests have also increased drastically in the last several months, likely in an effort to reduce the number of migrant workers in the country ahead of the World Cup.

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Following several official deployment bans over the years, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia signed a bilateral agreement on 11 August 2022 that aims to increase the number of Indonesian domestic workers in the Kingdom.

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Expanding localisation programmes, Saudi Arabia and Oman have recently issued ministerial decisions that ban migrants from certain jobs in the private sector.

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Saudi Arabia has updated regulations that permit domestic workers to change employers without their current employer’s permission under certain conditions.  These conditions remain limited, and in practice, domestic workers still face a number of obstacles in obtaining a new employer.

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Saudi Arabia has recently signed labour agreements to recruit private sector workers and domestic workers from Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Burundi in an effort to fill labour shortages, which are largely due to deployment bans from origin countries that are demanding better protections for their workers.

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Qatar’s new compulsory private health insurance system for all non-citizen residents, including visitors and those employed in the public and private sectors, is being rolled out in phases. The full text of the law’s executive regulations have not yet been made public.

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The UAE  has significantly reduced fees for issuing work permits for expatriate employees to incentivise companies that surpass nationalisation quotas.  The incentives were introduced alongside steep penalties.

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Oman is exempting companies and individuals are from fines related to the late issuance or renewal of expat work permits, provided that they renew before September 1, 2022.

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According to officials, domestic workers accounted for nearly 50% of the 151,690 ‘residency violators’ in Kuwait in 2021. The country is facing a severe shortage in domestic workers due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, migration bans from origin countries, and, according to officials, a general lack of interest in recruitment to Kuwait.

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Oman has drastically reduced fees for issuing and renewing visas to migrant workers. Companies compliant with Omanisation quotas will see an added reduction of up to 89% less than previous costs.

Legally, the costs of employment visas should be borne by the employer, but are sometimes passed down to workers in the form of salary deductions.

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Qatar introduces nationality-based cap on recruitment fees for domestic workers. While a cap on recruitment costs is not unwelcome, the discriminatory rates feed into the stereotypical treatment of workers, with fees equated to the value of the individual.

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On November 4, the Kuwait Public Authority for Manpower’s (PAM) Board of Directors approved the cancellation of decision No. 520 of 2020 which had blocked migrants aged 60+ who hold less than a university degree from obtaining residency permits.

According to the new regulations, the above-mentioned residents can renew their permits for KD500 (1,656 USD) per year, in addition to the estimated cost of private health insurance (between KD500 and KD700 annually.)

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A group of UN special rapporteurs have drawn attention to the trafficking of Vietnamese women to Saudi Arabia, who are then subjected to sexual abuse and torture. Though the statement is specific to the Vietnam-Saudi corridor, trafficking of women and extreme abuse of women in domestic work is pervasive across the region. Except for the scant protections of a domestic workers law in four of the GCC states, there are no effective measures to protect women who are employed in households and living in isolation.

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Kuwait’s budget crunch, liquidity crises, and labour force nationalisation schemes have resulted in a large-scale termination of foreign workers, and a devastating impact on non-Kuwaiti government employees. According to various media reports, the Kuwaiti government is several months overdue in paying end-of-service benefits to terminated and resigned migrant workers.

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Bahrain recently launched the second phase of its “Wage Protection System”. The second phase will cover businesses with 50 to 499 employees.

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Kenyan labour rights activist, Malcolm Bidali, leaves Qatar after paying a hefty fine as a penalty for publishing “false information” under the country’s cybercrime laws. The 28 year-old is a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms.

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