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Saudi Arabia to relax foreign workers' sponsorship terms in March '21

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced new plans to ease foreign workers' contractual restrictions, abolishing a controversial seven-decade-old sponsorship system known as kafala...

[they] aim to make the Saudi labour market more attractive, the deputy minister for human resources said, by granting foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers' permission...

The currently applicable kafala system generally binds a migrant worker to one employer. Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have been calling on Saudi authorities to end that system which leaves workers vulnerable to abuses.

"The term kafala does not officially exist in Saudi labour laws since more than 20 years ago; however, there were many wrong practices of it that helped breach the contractual relation," [Sattam Alharbi, deputy minister for development of the work environment] said...

The new initiative will base the relation between employers and workers on a standard contract that should be certified by the government, and will allow workers to apply directly for services via an e-government portal, instead of a mandatory employers' approval.

The ministry aims to certify the contracts of all foreign workers by the end of the first quarter of 2021.