Kuwait: UPR notes new worker protections, gaps remain regarding sponsorship and rights awareness

In January 2020, Kuwait underwent its third universal periodic review in front of the Human Rights Council.

Although Kuwait’s submission highlights the large number of migrant workers to the country at risk of human rights violations, citing a lack of awareness of labour rights among migrant workers as a challenge, they also state that the responsibility to overcome this knowledge gap lies with workers’ countries of origin and not with Kuwait.

The Kuwait submission highlighted developments in the country’s Labour Code since 2018, including implementation of decrees regarding a minimum wage. The report also outlines implementation and monitoring processes for the Code, including regular labour inspections, awareness-raising campaigns to educate workers and employers on labour rights, and the distribution of guidance in both Kuwait and countries-of-origin for migrant workers on labour procedures and registering complaints. The submission also describes the introduction of an online complaints procedure for all workers registered with the Public Authority for Workforce which aims “to protect the rights of private-sector workers” whilst keeping both worker and employer informed of labour dispute developments.

The stakeholders’ submission noted the above-mentioned developments regarding migrant workers’ rights; however, legal protections were deemed inadequate “with forced labour being a norm”, and that migrant workers often face arbitrary arrest and deportation for “minor infractions” such as traffic offences. NGOs also noted that the sponsorship system in place in Kuwait means that workers are open to exploitation, requiring permission from their employer to change jobs or to travel.

The compilation of information from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) highlights areas of improvement regarding private sector workers and includes recommendations to ensure

  • The abolition of the sponsorship system for employing migrant workers, and its replacement with a system of residency permits;
  • equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, including with regards to accommodation provision, recruitment, promotion and vocational training;
  • the elimination of direct and indirect discrimination against women in the workplace, and ensuring women are provided with equal access to all forms of work and career paths; and
  • legislation regarding the civil service be amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, origin, language and religion in recruitment.
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