QATAR: Migrant Worker Labour Force Reforms

November 12, 2015

Qatar has announced new proposals that have been introduced in an effort to improve workers conditions in the Middle Eastern state.

Qatar currently employs a “Kafala” system, a system used in the construction and domestic sectors of Middle Eastern nations. The system has been heavily criticised by human rights activists who highlight its potential for abuse, specifically they focus on the opportunity for exploitation of workers as employers can confiscate their workers passports and subject them to working conditions that has been likened to modern day slavery.

Labour law changes announced by the Emir of Qatar have aimed to address the concerns of human rights groups by improving the conditions for migrant workers in the country. The new laws do not abolish exit permits totally, as migrant workers must still get the permission of their employers to leave the country. Instead, under the new proposals, workers will be able to leave the country but must give at least three days” notice to the interior ministry. The ministry will then inform the employer who will approve or decline the request. In addition, workers will be allowed to change jobs at the end of a contract, without the consent of their bosses. Migrant workers will continue to be denied the right to join a union.

Despite these proposed changes which are due to take effect in 2017, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has released a statement condemning the proposals. The ITUC has stated that, “[the reforms are] a smokescreen to draw in companies and governments to do business in Qatar as the Gulf state rolls out massive infrastructure developments to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.” A Commission of Inquiry into abuse of migrant workers in Qatar is being considered by the International Labour Organisation’s Governing Body when they meet this month.

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