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25 Mar 2021

Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia: Labor Reforms Insufficient

Saudi Arabia introduced labor reforms in March 2021 that will ease restrictions and allow some migrant workers to change jobs without employer consent under certain narrow circumstances, Human Rights Watch said today.

The reforms, however, do not go far enough to dismantle the abusive kafala (visa sponsorship) system...

The English-language version of the guidebook appears to be an abbreviated version of the Arabic-language one and omits certain important guidelines.

The Arabic guidebook states that the new employer is responsible for paying any costs involved in the job transfer but does not elaborate on how the ministry plans to ensure that vulnerable migrant workers are not forced to incur those costs themselves. The “Frequently Asked Questions” section says that a migrant worker against whom an “absence from work complaint” had been filed cannot benefit from the job change reforms. The English-language version of the guidebook omits this point...

The guidebook also states that the worker, not the employer, must bear any fees related to this visa, which currently costs SR200 (USD 53). According to the Arabic-language guidelines, the employer is notified when the migrant worker submits a request and has 10 days to lodge an inquiry into the request.