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Kafala System UPSC NOTE

 Why in news

  • Within hours of the fatal fire that killed 49 migrant workers — a majority of whom are Indians — in Mangaf area of Al Ahmadi municipality, Kuwait, several actions were taken immediately

  • It is easy to replace a number, recruit a new and bring in more workers to fill the gap left behind by those who perished

  • To humanise them would mean to acknowledge their presence as more than just labour and entail safeguarding all of the rights of the migrant population, and that would only be possible by dismantling the all-pervasive Kafala system

What is Kafala System?

  • The kafala, or sponsorship, system gives private citizens and companies in Jordan, Lebanon, and most Arab Gulf countries almost total control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status.

  • The system arose from growing demand in Gulf economies for cheap labor, and the desperation of many migrants in search of work and the opportunity to send money home to their families.

  • This huge discrepancy between the cost of living and minimum wage is one of the critical control factors of the Kafala system

  • Work and residence visas are tied to the employer, ensuring they have a stranglehold over their employees’ lives

  • For the nearly three million migrants in Kuwait’s low-income belt, this means absolute dependency on the employer for accommodation, food and transportation.

Issues of migrant workers

  • Crowded, unsafe and unhygienic labour accommodation that makes its residents most vulnerable to any exigencies that may arise in a country. 

  • Just a few years ago, when the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GCC states struggled to contain the spread of the virus in these labour accommodations

  • By keeping wages so low, Kuwait and the other Gulf states ensure that workers are perpetually vulnerable

  • They have no choice but to live in the poor housing provided, struggle with the quality of food, and occupy as little socio-cultural space as possible in the countries they help build.

  • But GCC states do not take kindly to any form of labour organising or unionisation. To allow workers to have a voice is to allow them to challenge the status quo. 

  • The easiest way to prevent this is to keep wages low enough that the workers are in a constant state of financial insecurity, and then to deport them with ease at the first sign of protest or discontent.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members

  • The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) is a regional organisation comprising of six members: The Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Kafala System UPSC NOTE
Kafala System UPSC NOTE
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