Qatar committed to review and reform its labor laws

Qatar is emerging as a progressive Muslim state with fresh ideas to become a global tourist destination in the next few years.

labor laws

Qatar has decided to work on its labor laws to bring them in line with internationally accepted standards, said Qatari officials. The state of Qatar has been responding to every account of criticism with highly positive gestures—through changes in ages-old rules. Experts believe that despite all the propaganda and malicious campaigns against the tiny oil-rich country, Qatar has successfully defended itself to be able to hold FIFA world cup 2022.

In an interview in the Qatari capital, Doha, Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of the supreme committee organizing the event, said a definitive end to the Kafala system would be set out next month and he wanted reforms to apply not just to workers employed on World Cup projects but across Qatar and more widely. “There are already signs of reforms being picked up in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The abolition of kafala, he said, would mean “every person living in the country has the freedom to move from one job to another and can live their lives, change jobs whenever they want and leave the country as they want.”

Qatar says it is also planning labor market reforms, including introducing elected “workers’ welfare forums” to raise complaints with employers and a more than 50% rise in the minimum wage. It says it will be the first Gulf state to apply a uniform minimum wage that disregards nationality and is applicable not just to construction workers. “The rise in the minimum wage is something I am very excited about,” Thawadi said.

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Thawadi claimed that some of the criticism leveled at Qatar since it won the right to stage the World Cup a decade ago had been “ill-informed, cynical or even vicious”.

In October this year, the state of Qatar has decided to abolish its controversial “Kafala” system. In recent days, there have been several reports and articles which pointed out degrading work conditions and the absence of any mechanism to protect migrant workers in Qatar.

The International Labor Organisation (ILO), a UN employment rights agency which has been working on reforms with the Qatar government since 2017, said the Gulf country’s ministers had agreed to end Kafala and also introduce “a non-discriminatory minimum wage, the first in the Middle East”.

It is important to understand that Kafala ties workers to so-called sponsorship by their employer, meaning they cannot move jobs or leave the country without the employer’s approval. Human rights groups have campaigned for years to have kafala abolished across the Gulf, whose countries use millions of low-paid immigrant workers mostly from the Indian subcontinent.

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FIFA’s decision to locate the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has hugely increased scrutiny, and the Qatar government ultimately responded by signing formal cooperation with the ILO promising to implement improvements.

“Cabinet has adopted new legislation related to a new law for minimum wage and also a new regulation to facilitate labor transfer to a new employer… and a draft law to abolish exit permits,” Labour Minister Yousuf Mohamed al-Othman Fakhroo said at an event in Doha.

Qatar and its labor laws have been under criticism ever since the country was named the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The government in Qatar has repeatedly promised to ensure the safety of workers.

Interestingly, Qatar is viewing sports and games not only events but an opportunity to expand its tourism industry with an intention to introduce several tourist destinations in the country. The tourism sector, in Qatar, is offering new avenues to the investors and businesses with remarkable growth which has reportedly reached 11% as of August.

The authorities in Qatar have made it clear that every possible step is being taken to ensure the safety of workers from heat-related injuries. The government has introduced a work ban that does not allow manual labor in unshaded outdoor areas between 11:30 and 3 pm from mid-June to August.

Qatar’s Government Communications Office said, “Qatar has made substantial progress on labor reforms and it continues to work with NGOs, including the International Labour Organization, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective.” The authorities have also instructed employers that laborers should not work more than five hours during the summer period.

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Moreover, the Qatari authorities and the Supreme Committee also said it had conducted research with the ILO and climate academics to assess the impact of workplace heat stress on workers, which looked at mitigation measures including on-site cooling rooms and improving rest break schedules.

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