After shelving plans last year to reevaluate its sponsorship system, Qatar appears to be picking up the issue once again, a Labor Ministry official has said.
Under the current “kafala” system, expats here must get their sponsors’ permission to leave the country (even for vacation), to switch jobs, get a driver’s license, or to rent a home or a car.
Gulf News reports:
“The sponsorship system will be replaced with a contract signed by the two parties,” Hussain Al Mulla, the labour ministry undersecretary, told local Arabic daily Al Arab on Tuesday. “The contract will stipulate the rights and duties of each party and will impose specific matters that the foreigner has to respect,” he said…
However, Al Mulla said that the cancellation of the contract does not allow the foreigner to switch jobs automatically.
“A foreigner can resign to take up another, maybe more lucrative job. However, the resignation annuls the contract and the foreigner will have to go home and the new employer will draw up a new contract with him that will allow him to return to Qatar,” he said.
This would be different than the current law, which bans expats from working in Qatar for two years if their sponsors don’t grant them permission to switch employers.
Qatar, which has faced severe international criticism for its kafala system, has been talking about making changes for years. In 2007, the prime minister himself criticized it as a form of modern-day slavery.
Since then, Bahrain has abolished its kafala system so that expats can enter and leave the country on their own free will. And Kuwait has announced plans to abolish the system sometime this year.
But Qatar has repeatedly backpedaled on promises to make changes, most recently last year when it said it wanted to see how things played out in other countries first.
Al Mulla also said that the formation of labor unions to protect workers’ rights is also being considered.
Credit: Photo by Christian Jensen