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Posted On: 6 May 2009 08:00 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Bahrain set to scrap sponsorship system

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Bahrain said yesterday it would scrap its existing sponsorship system for foreign workers in the hope of reducing its need for expatriate labour, a first in a region often criticised by rights groups over the issue. Many sectors of Gulf Arab economies heavily rely on low-qualified foreign workers, mostly from Asian countries. “We’re working on identifying a ceiling on expatriate workers in Bahrain,” said Labour Minister Majeed Al Alawi in a statement published by Bahrain’s official news agency. He added the country’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) will determine the limit in a study this year. Under the new regulations, foreign workers will be directly sponsored by the LMRA and therefore able to move jobs without the consent of their previous employer. The changes will be effective from August. The previous system, which is common in Gulf Arab states and under which employers do the sponsoring, has long been criticised by human rights groups for placing workers at the whim of their employers, who usually take their passports. The presence of cheap Asian workers is a contentious issue in the region. They are seen distorting the labour market to the disadvantage of nationals, yet Gulf governments invite them on the assumption that nationals will not do many jobs. Bahrain’s population grew to about 1.05 million in 2007 on an influx of foreign workers. There are about 500,000 Bahraini citizens. Bahrain is seen as having the most advanced labour laws in the region.