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Saudi to reform kafala worker sponsorship system in 2021

  • Published at 06:38 pm October 28th, 2020
Saudi Arabia flag
File photo: A Saudi national flag is seen, in the capital Riyadh on September 22, 2020 AFP

The kafala system generally binds a migrant worker to one employer

Saudi Arabia plans to cancel a foreign worker sponsorship system, known as kafala, and replace it with a new form of contract between employers and employees, the financial newspaper Maaal said on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

Saudi Arabia, which this year is chairing the Group of 20 major economies (G20), seeks to boost the private sector - and make it more attractive to foreign talent - under an ambitious plan to diversify its oil-based economy.

The kafala system, which Maaal said has been in place for seven decades in Saudi, generally binds a migrant worker to one employer. Rights groups criticize the system and say it leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation.

“The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development intends next week to announce a new initiative that improves the contractual relationship between employers and expatriate workers,” the Maaal report said.

The initiative will be implemented in the first half of 2021, it added, without giving further details.

Currently more than 10 million foreign workers live in Saudi Arabia under the kafala system that requires them to be sponsored by a Saudi employer and be issued an exit/re-entry visa whenever they want to leave the country.