Qatar improves legislation for foreign workers

The government of Qatar has promulgated new labour laws aimed at improving working conditions. The Gulf State hosted the World Cup in 2022 and has been under fire for years because of the conditions under which foreign workers are working on the construction of the stadiums.

The minimum wage increases by 25 percent to 1,000 rial per month, converted into approximately 230 euros, and applies to both domestic and foreign workers. In addition, employees will receive compensation for housing (500 rial) and food (300 rial), unless the employer offers these things in kind.

Exploitation

Furthermore, foreign workers are now allowed to change jobs without their employer’s permission. Now this is not possible, because employees will lose their work visa. This kafala system has been criticised for years for encouraging exploitation.

The new laws will enter into force in six months’ time. The Qatar Ministry of Labour says that in the meantime all contracts will have to be adjusted. There are quite a few of them: about 95 percent of the workers in Qatar come from abroad, mostly from South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

UN applauds

At the beginning of this year, the country already removed another controversial rule, namely that foreign workers needed permission from their employer to return to their home country. Despite this, Human Rights Watch recently concluded that little has improved for migrant workers in Qatar.

The UN labour organisation ILO welcomes the new reforms and says that Qatar is the first country in the region with a minimum wage for all workers, regardless of origin. Undoing the kafala system is also a big improvement according to the ILO.