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Manama: Kuwait's labour and social affairs minister has promised he will not reverse a decision to scrap the country’s controversial sponsorship system in February.

"The ministry is moving forward with the cancellation of the sponsorship system in February," Mohammad Al Afassi said.

A law to establish a work force authority for Kuwaitis and foreigners will be enacted by the parliament before the cancellation of the sponsorship system, Al Shahed daily reported.

The authority will register all foreigners under its name, oversee contracts between employers and workers and monitor their implementation.

It will also be responsible for workers changing jobs.

The initial reaction to Kuwait's announcement last week that it would do away with a system varied greatly. It has been likened to modern-day slavery, because sponsored foreigners cannot enter or leave the country, or change jobs, without their sponsors' permission.

Reaction ranged from a warm welcome on some parts, mainly from activists and labour-exporting countries, to outright rejection, primarily from businesses and skepticism from international rights groups.

The sponsorship system has prevailed for decades in the Arabian Gulf despite harsh criticism.

According to Hadi Al Enzi, the deputy head of the labour disputes department, the ministry will set up three centres of 2,100 workers that will help meet the demands of employers in a bid to put an end to the phenomenon of marginalised workers. The centres will be used firstly when an employer needs to hire workers, he said.

In 2009, Bahrain became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to do away with the sponsorship system.

The move caused controversy after businesses rejected it and launched massive campaigns to force the labour minister to reverse it. However, Majeed Al Alawi withstood the onslaughts, resisted calls to resign and scrapped the system in August 2009.

Other GCC countries have been monitoring the situation in Bahrain before making their own decisions on the matter.