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Tue 7 Jul 2009 06:19 AM

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Expat residency cap as early as 2010 - Minister

EXCLUSIVE: Five-year limit for unskilled workers in GCC could become law next year.

A residency cap for expats, limiting unskilled workers to a maximum five-year stay in any one Gulf state, could be implemented as early as next year, according to a key figure in the negotiations.

“I hope that we will push [the residency cap] in 2010, when we have the GCC summit here [in Bahrain],” Dr Majeed Al Alawi, Bahrain’s Minister for Labour, told Arabian Business in an interview.

“It should be ratified then, and implemented straight away. That is my hope, and I have been trying [to achieve this] since 2002.”

Dr Al Alawi said that the proposals were designed to prevent the erosion of Arab culture and society, and also to address the issue of expatriates applying for nationality in the Gulf.

They do not apply to skilled expatriates such as teachers, lawyers, doctors and journalists, the minister said.

“We need to protect society, and our identity as an Arab nation, without being racist,” he said. “I went to Kerala last year, and I felt I was in Bahrain. And I came back to Bahrain, and I felt I was in Kerala.”

Alwai said in May that Bahrain 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.

Under the new regulations, foreign workers will be directly sponsored by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and therefore able to move jobs without the consent of their previous employer. The changes will be effective from next month.

The previous system, which is common in the 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.

Bahrain's population grew to about 1.05 million in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, on an influx of foreign workers. There are about 500,000 Bahraini citizens.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

UK 11 years ago

Unskilled/blue collared skilled are the most exploited lot in the GCC. While the agents charge them exorbitant fees for sending them to GCC, the companies look the other way even though they are aware of the problem. Many companies deduct for health insurance, food, etc from the already paltry salary that these people receive. Five years is barely sufficient for the poor chaps to even recovery their costs. Many of them would have borrowed this money to make it to the GCC in the hope of a bright future. Restricting their tenure to five years will sadly make the future quite bleak. A 10 year tenure would be more appropriate.

Chandan 11 years ago

I as a expat only wish that the residency cap should have come 10 years back when i set my feet in UAE. In that case i wouldnt have had to spend my 12th year in the UAE and spoil my career choices and also use all my skills for the mindless and shelfish people who run local businesses here to exploit the knowledge of expats. Luckily the people coming in the future will be saved.

JULIA 11 years ago

this is not practical move- any worker who knows the job is valuable for the employer- if yu remove him after 5 years -employer has not recovered his investment on hr resources. rotating them every 5 years will not affect culture-because exp will replace exp. main problem is high number of exp and not their rotation. also if somebody is working on temp work visa he cannot claim passport

Wis 11 years ago

@Chandan: If you're so unhappy your knowledge is being exploited in the UAE, why didn't you just leave and used it to benefit your own country??

Khuram 11 years ago

Look at how big their brains are.. they (GCC) have no other issue to talk about other than exploiting more workers. Unskilled workers are threat to their culture and identity. I wish and pray Inshallah oil price will come to 20$ barrel, then we will see your identity and culture..

AD 11 years ago

5 years cap on expats - another one of the many hit and trial policies, which will be rolled back even before getting implemented, any how complements to Bahrain Government for the very pragmatic move - now that you have taken a step forward dont go back on labour reforms.

Fares al Mansoori 11 years ago

You all ungrateful lot, what is stopping all of you from packing your luggage and getting out of the whole Gulf and return to your miserable countries? You will stay and make money and bad mouth us and our culture and our governments and our rulers and our laws. We have had enough of you, just pack and get the hell out and pleeeeeeeeeeease do not worry about us. We would rather go back to the old camel days and you return to your hut days than allow ingrates like you all to enjoy their ephemeral sojourn in this region. And you expect permanent residencies, and you expect citizenship, you must be insanely unrealistic to ask for something you never deserved and will never deserve so dream on.

Anurad 11 years ago

I frankly think its a good idea. All should get some hand on the money - why only few. Further its a fantastic move by the Bahrain govt to implement such a move to cancel the sponsorship system. God bless u Bahrain.

Omar 11 years ago

If you think UAE is not suitable for you, then, you should simply respct yourselves and leave today. Why do not you go back to your country??or go to Canada, Austalia, China or any place you think is better for you. Staying in this country while wishing them bad is something that reflect a dark mean spirit that i do not congratulate you for!!! This is their country and they can do whatever they wish!!!Why is it hard to understand??!!!If you have a better choice, leave quietly and politely. It would better for you, your family, your country and this country!!!

AJ 11 years ago

@ all the people who say "if no likeee, then please leaveeee" Yes, this is not a democracy, yes we will never get citizenship etc etc. But we will NEVER stop bickering about issues we dont agree with, issues that irk the minutest of our senses. We have spent years & years of hardship & sweat in the country, and it's not for you to simply tell us to leave if we dont like it. It doesnt work like that dudes. It just doesnt. For all those who feel we have been compensated monetarily for the pain & hardship, I guess thats the only way you have learnt to value humankind. You are not even worth advising. If you dont respect our say then you should leave the forum. Pleeeeaaaasssseee dont worry about our staying or leaving. We know you love this country enough to die for. And frankly we dont care much about that. You can sit in your lovely homes with your lovely families with your rosy dreams of your rosier futures, while common people like us suffer on your behalf. Its more like 'you cant handle the truth, so lets shut'em up'.