ILO calls for liberal sponsorship rules in the Gulf


By not allowing a worker to move from one job to another, you are denying another employer the opportunity to benefit from his services, the ILO said.

This is not just a question of ethics, but one which will raise the efficiency of your job markets, said Dr Ibrhaim Awad, a senior ILO official.

He was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘Migrant Workers in the GCC and the International Law’ at an ongoing convention on expatriate workforce in the region here yesterday.

The issue Awad spoke on concerned ‘ILO’s perspective on the international mobility of labour’. Once the job markets are improved, they can very well attract nationals, he said. This can help minimise the dependence of the GCC states on foreign workforce.

He told The Peninsula earlier that the GCC is the only region in the world where the sponsorship system exists. Calling for giving equal employment opportunities to citizens and expatriates, he noted that anomalies in pay scales can be harmful to the economies of these countries.

There will be some jobs reserved for nationals, while there will be others to be filled in only by foreigners. This will adversely impact the country’s economy as citizens would not be willing to take up lowly-paid jobs, warned Awad.

Later, during the panel discussion, he told regional decision-makers that they were not doing any favour to expatriates by allowing them to remit their savings home.

It may be noted that the remittances routed overseas by Gulf-based expatriates which run up to billions of dollars annually and their impact on the local economies, are one of the dominant themes of the ongoing symposium.

But presenting the other view, Awad said that expatriates take part in creating wealth locally by being productive, so the remittances they send are justifiable. It is their share in the wealth.

He also reminded regional decision-makers that the large presence of expatriate communities in their countries is contributing hugely to creating demand for goods and services.

Expatriates complement and do not compete with nationals in the job market and at no time can the GCC states hope not hire foreign workers since there will always be jobs needing them, said the ILO official.

Jamal Al Salman, from the Bureau of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs in GCC states based in Bahrain, presenting a paper said the influx of foreign workers into the region was 12.8 million in 2005, a figure which is expected to increase to 18 million in 2015.

The population growth rate here is 3.6 per cent, double the rate in the developing countries. "This is one of the biggest challenges the GCC states face today," he said.

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