Qatar’s government has recently announced labour market reforms, in order to help improve the treatment of foreign workers. The proportion of migrant workers to the native population has become the largest in the world, and as this number increases due to the 2014 World Cup preparations relating to infrastructure projects, human rights groups have been adding scrutiny and criticism of migrant working conditions to arouse a change.
There are now restrictions on working outdoors in the hottest hours during summer, and employers are being forced to open bank accounts to pay wages electronically. If employers do not comply with this or pay workers within seven days of their due date, sanctions will put in place, however what the penalties will entail is yet to be specified.
Qatar’s Ministry of Labour has also stated that electronic complaint systems will be launched, and accommodation will be made available for 150,000 migrant workers. It also claims there will be an increase in the number of safety inspections.
A wave of heightened criticism formed due to a Guardian Newspaper investigation in 2013, which highlighted that dozens of Nepalese construction workers had died amid allegations of mistreatment by companies.
The Labour Minister Dr Abdullah Saleh Al-Khulaifi, stated that he recognised there was much to do, but progression is steadily under-way. However some of the most controversial practises remain in place, and these laws are continuously disputed and confronted by human rights groups. For example, the kafala sponsorship system means that workers are bound to one employer only, and the exit permit means it is extremely difficult for foreign workers to leave the country independently.
James Lynch, a migrant workers expert at Amnesty International, said Qatar do show signs of efforts to improve by increasing labour inspections and better language facilities. However, he acknowledged that some measures of planned legislation are yet to be put into action, and that only fundamental reform will address the abuse of workers.