Thursday, August 18, 2022 | Muharram 19, 1444 H
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GCC states praised for scrapping sponsorship system

It seems that most of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have abolished the sponsorship system which has been in force since expatriate workers were attracted to the region in the early seventies of the last century.

A few days ago, Saudi Arabia announced that it had implemented the initiative to improve contractual relations in place of the sponsorship system, which led to praise from foreign workers and international organizations. The decision will serve to expose companies engaged in human trafficking, exploitation of expatriate labour and those selling permits without authorization.

Today, we see that the GCC states have accorded priority to this objective, after labour-related concerns generated a lot of debate and discussion at the international level and among human rights institutions as well. The decision allows foreign workers to leave their country of employment at any time. At the same time the GCC countries are working to enact labour market and economic reforms with a view to encouraging foreigners to invest their savings in the region.

Abolition of the sponsorship system in the GCC counties is likely to lead to the creation of an attractive labour market, the empowerment and development of Gulf human competencies, as well as the development of a modern work environment that shuns hidden trade practices. It eases the contractual restrictions on foreigners, gives them the freedom to change jobs and businesses, and event leave the country whenever they want without the need to secure the employer/sponsor’s permission, provided they serve notice of their intention to resign from the services of the employer.

By abolishing the sponsorship and exit permit systems for foreigners, the Gulf states have begun reforming the labour market with the aim of improving living and working conditions of expatriates. These reforms will undoubtedly enhance worker rights and improve living and working conditions, while enabling everyone to choose employees without coercion. The new laws will make the region more attractive to people with good professions and high competencies, as well as attract cheap labour for other jobs, which will make it easier for local companies to proceed with their usual projects.

Prior to the abolition of the sponsorship system, the region had been subjected to a lot of criticism related to foreign labour from international labour and human rights organizations. Some of these criticisms were in response to misinformation suggesting that foreign workers were living in poor conditions. In the wake of these rumours, international organizations despatched teams to see for themselves the reality on the ground.

While the abolition of the sponsorship system is a positive development for workers, some businesses may be worried that departing senior employees may leak vital company secrets to competition – a concern that needs to be suitably addressed.

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