PARLIAMENT yesterday voted to halt a one per cent deduction from the salaries of public and private sector workers, amid claims that it was "un-Islamic" and "inhumane"
The money deducted goes into an unemployment fund that supports jobseekers, but MPs want the government to shoulder the total cost of the fund.
However, they also approved an amendment that would allow non-compulsory payments from Bahrainis wishing to contribute to the fund.
Some MPs also called for all money deducted from the scheme to date to be returned by the government, although no vote was taken.
The unemployment insurance scheme was introduced in 2006, despite protests from some employees.
Under the initiative, the government pays the equivalent of one per cent of the salary of all Bahraini and expatriate employees, while employers and employees also pay one per cent.
This means that the equivalent of 3pc from every pay cheque goes into the fund to support jobseekers.
Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan yesterday tried to persuade MPs not to scrap employee deductions, saying the scheme was vital.
"We have to differentiate between social solidarity and insurance and this fund is an insurance scheme, which provides assistance and help to the unemployed," he said.
"People stopped complaining about this fund and the one per cent deduction when they started benefiting from it - whether they were graduates waiting for a job or those who lost their jobs and didn't have a source of income.
"People are getting around 60pc of their wages if they lose their job until they find work and the unemployed graduates are getting between BD120 and BD300 for six months, until they select a job from lists posted in the ministry."
Mr Humaidan also warned Bahrain would be accused of discrimination if expatriates were forced to continue paying, while Bahrainis were not.
"All GCC countries are working to implement our experience and are meeting with us to learn the mechanism.
"Around 250,000 people have benefited from the scheme in Bahrain and this by itself shows the effectiveness of the law."
However, parliament second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Maawada argued the scheme was "un-Islamic" and "inhumane" - since money was being given out and then taken back.
"The Constitution says the government is obliged to help people during unemployment, but not from anyone else's pockets," he said.
"Return all the payments taken because in the beginning the government had no right to force salary deductions.
The issue will now be voted on by the Shura Council.