Jobless benefits extension agreed in Bahrain

MPs yesterday unanimously approved amendments to the 2006 Insurance Against Unemployment Law

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Bahrain. Modern buildings in Manama skyline.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Bahrain. Modern buildings in Manama skyline.

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BAHRAINIS who fail to secure a job before their nine-month unemployment allowance expires could see the benefit extended until they are employed.

MPs yesterday unanimously approved amendments to the 2006 Insurance Against Unemployment Law that would continue to treat those who refuse opportunities as jobseekers, despite government reservations over the move.

It will now be drafted into a proper bill by the government and returned to the National Assembly within six months.

Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee vice-chairman Ahmed Al Demistani said jobseekers were being forced to accept any job before the expiry of the unemployment allowance.

“A female jobseeker with a Bachelor’s degree was offered a job as a book-keeper in a scrapyard south of Askar,” he said during a discussion at the chamber’s weekly session.

“When she asked about the nature of the job, she was informed that it was just registering scrap bought and sold from dealers and customers.

“Imagine someone who spends four to five years to get a university degree in business administration ending up with such a job!

“If a jobseeker rejects three jobs as unsuitable, his file is closed even before the nine months are over and the ministry says it is then not responsible for finding the person a job.

“So many accept whatever job comes their way even if it doesn’t do justice to their qualifications, or provide a salary commensurate with their credentials.”

Woman and child committee vice-chairwoman Dr Masooma Abdulkarim said government employees behind the keyboards needed to understand what jobseekers are looking for.

“In another incident, a female graduate with a Bachelor’s degree was given the job of a cashier in a bakery.

“People in Bahrain are set to face difficult times with the introduction of the anticipated 10 per cent value-added tax (VAT) next year, so proper jobs that help meet their ends should be provided.”

Parliament legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Mohammed Al Abbasi said the Unemployment Fund was awash with cash.

“Annual revenues are BD90 million while the spending is just BD12m, which means a surplus of BD78m.

“The fund was launched to help jobseekers as much as possible.”

The Labour and Social Development Ministry said that the proposed amendment could encourage jobseekers to refuse work.

“The allowance is temporary for serious jobseekers and is not there as a source of income for someone who wants to take life easy,” it said, in writing.

“The word ‘suitable’ is vague and people could use it as an excuse to refuse job opportunities that come their way.

“We approved MPs’ proposal in 2019 to increase the allowance period from six to nine months to give jobseekers more time.”

Jobseekers with a degree or higher receive BD200 per month while others receive BD150 per month.

The Social Insurance Organisation said the proposal would drain the coffers, while robbing genuine jobseekers of financial support.

“The plan, if implemented, could lead to jobseekers deliberately rejecting work that offers them pay that is closer to – or a bit more – than their monthly allowance,” it said.

“People should be encouraged to gain work experience and not to reject opportunities.”

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