A study is being conducted at the level of GCC labour ministers to see if it is feasible to allow expatriates to move freely in the region and stay and work in any member-country.
The idea is to treat residents on a par with nationals and provide them with equal opportunities of employment and mobility within the region.
Kuwaiti Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hind Al Subeih, told the Saudi-based news website (aleqt.com) that the ministers were expected to soon give final touches to the study, which is likely to be completed this November.
She said the proposal was being opposed by some senior GCC bureaucrats, particularly those concerned with pushing nationals into private sector jobs.
“The officials are of the view that if expatriates are allowed to move freely within the region and take up jobs in any member-state, locals would lose employment opportunities in the private sector,” she said.
She said that under active consideration of the ministers were issues related to creating job opportunities for locals and allowing freedom of mobility and employment to expatriate workers.
The decisions the ministers take would be known by November, she said.
Member countries have given suggestions on the issues. “Some senior GCC officials have reservations on the issue of allowing free movement of foreign workers in the region,” she said.
Meanwhile, Abdul Raheem Naqi, Secretary-General of Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce, the representative body of the private sector, told the website that granting expatriates the freedom of movement and employment in the region was undesirable. “Priority should be given to GCC nationals in private sector employment.”
Fawzi Al Majdali, Secretary-General of a trade union in Kuwait, told the website that allowing expatriates the freedom of employment and mobility in the region will hit hard the job nationalisation drive in the private sector.
“This would create strong competition for locals in accessing private sector jobs in the region,” said Al Majdali.
The issue of allowing residents free movement and accessing jobs in the region should be studied in depth, he said.
“We are going to hold a meeting with the labour ministry (in Kuwait) next week on this issue.”
The drive to nationalize jobs has raised income levels of citizens, said Al Majdali, talking of Kuwait. According to him, every year some 45,000 expatiates are replaced by Kuwaitis in private jobs.
“We are still faced with a lot of challenges on this front because locals are reluctant to take up private employment as they prefer state jobs,” said Al Majdali. “These challenges can, though, be successfully met with the support of the government as private companies can be asked to give additional incentives to locals in their employ.”
Kuwait, he said, was a GCC member state that was attaching the maximum importance to job nationalization drive.
As for the UAE and Qatar, the trade unionist said they were giving more importance to providing employment to GCC nationals.
Al Majdali pointed out that some 45 days ago GCC labour minister met and discussed several plans to provide job opportunities to locals in the private sector.
The meeting took place in Kuwait last June and among other issues the need to treat all GCC nationals equally in providing private sector employment in the region, was discussed, said Al Majdali.
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