Balancing Ethical Recruitment and Privacy: Biometric Scanning in Kuwait

By Zaya Stas

As a destination country for migrant workers, Kuwait heavily relies on the contributions of
individuals who leave their homes searching for better opportunities. Concerns have been
raised regarding the treatment and rights of these migrant workers. This blog aims to shed light
on the importance of ethical recruitment and fair labour practices in Kuwait, examining the
challenges faced by migrant workers and emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures to
protect their rights. By promoting transparency, accountability, and adherence to international
labour standards, Kuwait can create a more equitable and sustainable labour market that
upholds the dignity and well-being of all workers, regardless of their nationality or immigration

In the context of migrant workers in Kuwait, a diverse population heavily relies on migrant
workers, particularly from South Asia and the Middle East. However, the journey for many
migrant workers is fraught with challenges and hardships, including discrimination, unfair
treatment, and labour abuses. Promoting transparency in the recruitment process is important
as it is a fundamental step toward ensuring ethical practices and fair labour conditions. It
entails providing migrant workers with comprehensive and accurate information about various
aspects of employment, such as available job opportunities, contractual terms, working
conditions, and legal rights. Transparency empowers workers to make informed decisions
before they embark on their journey, allowing them to assess the risks and benefits of their
potential employment in Kuwait.

Kuwait has recognized the need to manage its expatriate worker population effectively and has
demonstrated commitment to reforming expatriate worker legislation. Expatriate worker
legislation refers to the set of laws, regulations, and policies to govern the employment and
rights of foreign workers in Kuwait. Under the leadership of Dr. Khaled Mahdi, the Secretary
General of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, Kuwait is prioritizing
establishing mechanisms to evaluate prospective employees’ professional skills. This focus on
evaluating professional skills can contribute to creating a more transparent and merit-based
employment system, benefiting both the workers and the overall economy of Kuwait. By
reforming the expatriate worker legislation and emphasizing the importance of skill evaluation,
Kuwait aims to ensure fair treatment, ethical recruitment, and the optimal utilization of foreign
workers’ talents.

However, as Kuwait plans to introduce biometric scanning, concerns regarding privacy rights
and potential government overreach have come to the forefront. This initiative aims to create a
comprehensive database of individuals residing in Kuwait using detailed biometric data, such as
fingerprints, facial features, and genetic information. While the intention may be to enhance
security and streamline processes, there is a significant risk of violating individuals’ privacy
rights. The introduction of biometric scanning raises ethical concerns, particularly in the context
of the recruitment process. Moreover, using biometric data in recruitment decisions may
prioritize certain traits or features, potentially excluding individuals who do not meet specific physical criteria. This violates fairness and equal access to employment and perpetuates
discrimination based on appearance or genetic traits.

In order to address these concerns and uphold ethical standards, Kuwait must adopt a
comprehensive approach. This approach should include the development of strong legal
frameworks that explicitly define the purposes and limitations of biometric scanning and
establish clear guidelines for collecting, storing, and using biometric data. Independent
oversight mechanisms and regular audits should be implemented to ensure compliance with
these regulations and prevent any potential abuse or misuse of the collected information.
Furthermore, public awareness and education programs are vital to informing individuals about
their rights, potential risks, and measures to protect their privacy. By promoting transparency
and involving stakeholders, including civil society organizations and human rights advocates,
Kuwait can foster an environment of open dialogue and accountability.

While it may be challenging to create technical and legal safeguards that eliminate the threats
associated with biometric scanning, the focus should be on minimizing risks, ensuring
accountability, and protecting individuals’ rights to privacy and non-discrimination. By striking a
balance between security measures and ethical considerations, Kuwait can strive to create a
fair and inclusive society that respects the privacy and dignity of all individuals. It is essential to
continuously evaluate and evolve these safeguards in response to emerging technologies and
changing societal needs, ultimately fostering a trusted and responsible environment for all.

In conclusion, Kuwait needs to strongly commit to ethical recruitment and fair labour practices
to support its reliance on migrant workers. By prioritizing transparency, accountability, and
compliance with international labour standards, Kuwait can address the challenges faced by
migrant workers and safeguard their rights. However, implementing biometric scanning in
recruitment raises ethical concerns about privacy rights and potential discrimination. By
balancing security measures with ethical considerations, Kuwait can create an inclusive society
that respects the privacy and dignity of all individuals. Continual evaluation and adaptation of
these safeguards are essential in fostering a responsible environment. By taking these actions,
Kuwait can become a leader in ensuring the well-being and rights of migrant workers, inspiring
other nations to follow suit.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Canada Kuwait Aid Network.”

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