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AUK RISE Discusses "Reforming Labor Policies in the GCC"

The Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences and Engineering (RISE) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) held a lecture entitled "Reforming Labor Policies in the GCC" by Dr. Laurence Louër, Research Fellow, at the Sciences Po University in France.

Dr. Louër's talk provided insights on the GCC labor markets and how state-business-labor relations are being reshaped by labor policy reforms labeled "nationalization of employments". She explained how these reforms were launched in the 1990s and have picked up momentum in the 2000s due to rising unemployment among nationals. These reforms have resulted in a pro-labor policy shift that has materialized in new labor laws and regulations in the private sector. In this context, national labor has risen as an important social actor in some countries, with organized labor bodies emerging as a legitimate actor in formal tripartite negotiations over social and labor policies. A trend born before the "Arab Spring", this phenomenon has been reinforced amid the post-uprisings' counter-revolutionary measures, which aim to deal with the social grievances that were expressed during the protests.

Dr. Louër discussed the reasons for her interest in researching the GCC, explaining that she was attracted by the different cases of minorities and their life conditions in these countries. She explained that a significant portion of her research has been conducted in the State of Bahrain, which revealed the issues of unemployment and the scarcity of jobs. According to Dr. Louër's findings, sectarian biases were identified as some of the reasons that trigger these employment issues.

Dr. Louër explained that moves to reform labor laws in the GCC are considered evolutionary steps within the labor sector, and a natural milestone that many European countries have already gone through.

The speaker went on to give a brief overview of the history of the evolution of labor policies in the GCC, which began with the emergence of the oil industry, and is still ongoing. She explained how the nationals did not accept expatriates when they first came into their country. "They believed that they were here to take their jobs and that, on the long term, unemployment would occur for nationals because of it," explained Dr. Louër. According to her, nationals are now more accepting because laws were put to protect them, and now they live in coexistence.

She proceeded to discuss the 'kafala system' and how each of the Gulf countries have different conditions. Dr. Louër said, "the current 'kafala system' in most of the Gulf countries represents a prison for expatriates; restricting their transfer between jobs". She also described the systems and they're conditions, referring to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as two of the GCC countries who have upgraded their policy for the 'kafala system'. The state of Bahrain allows freedom to transfer between jobs for expatriates. under certain conditions. As for the United Arab Emirates it allows expatriates to stay within the State for up to three months following the expiration of their kafala, with the opportunity to search for another job.

After Dr. Louër concluded her talk she answered questions from the audience and discussed many ideas. Alongside the lecture, Dr. Amir Zeid, Director of RISE Center, announced that he and Dr. Louër are starting a research project that aims to study and analyze the socio-technical factors that affect women's enrollment in academic computing programs in Kuwait. The research will also study representation of women in the IT workforce in Kuwait (private and public sectors). "I am looking forward to productive research collaboration" expressed Dr. Zeid.

Dr. Louër received her Ph.D. from Sciences PO. She has been trained in philosophy, social sciences (sociology and political sciences) and Arabic. She has specialized in the Middle East studies. She has authored numerous articles and three books. Her area of expertise includes minority issues in the Middle East and social policy reforms in the GCC countries. She is currently conducting a research on labor policy reforms in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The AUK Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences, and Engineering (RISE) serves as AUK's primary source for research and development activities, a bridge to industry, and an important venue for community outreach. RISE adapts an integrative model by forging connections between academic disciplines, local & international innovators, academia & industry, as well as technology & society.

Dr. Laurence Louër, Research Fellow, at the Sciences Po University, France


Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 14th December 2014

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2014

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