DFA welcomes Saudi abolition of ‘kafala’

Published November 6, 2020, 6:05 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Department of Foreign Affairs has welcomed the latest initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to abolish its labor sponsorship system called “kafala.”


Under its new Labor Relation Initiative, Saudi will soon allow foreign workers the right to change jobs by transferring their sponsorship from one employer to another, leave and re-enter the country, and secure final exit visas without the consent of their employer.

The Philippines, according to the DFA, has been advocating against the kafala system in the United Nations and other international fora.

Bahrain was one of the first countries to abolish the system through the Flexi Visa System, which now allows undocumented or regular workers to acquire regular immigration status without an employer sponsor.

In line with the directive of President Duterte that no OFW be a slave to anyone, the Philippines pioneered the negotiation and international adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) to protect all Filipino migrant workers against all forms of exploitation and abuse, and guarantee decent work.

The Philippines also acknowledged recent developments in Qatar as the first country in the Arab Gulf region to allow all migrant workers to change jobs before the end of their contracts without first obtaining their employer’s consent.

An estimated 865,121 Filipino migrant workers are deployed in the Kingdom as of December 2019, the biggest concentration of OFWs in the Middle East.