09/03/2020, 14.43
QATAR
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Major shift in rights as Doha abolishes the 'kafala' system for migrant workers

The authorities have abolished the sponsorship system, which bound employees to employers, as well as introduced a minimum wage of around US$ 275. For critics, the latter is still too low. As part of its Vision 2030 plan, “Qatar is committed to creating a modern and dynamic labour market,” says minister.

 

Doha (AsiaNews (Agencies) – Qatar has officially abolished the "kafala" system for foreign migrants, a measure it had announced in October 2019. Now migrant workers will be able to change jobs without the written authorisation of their employer.

In addition, Qatar is introducing a guaranteed minimum wage for all, which is set at one thousand riyals (about US$ 275), a level deemed to low by critics.

Employers will also have to pay an allowance for food and accommodation, if they do not provide this directly.

Workers will also be able to quit by filing a one-month written notice if they have been working for the same person for less than two years. If they have been working for more than two years, the notice period is extended to two months.

“The State of Qatar is committed to creating a modern and dynamic labour market, in line with Qatar Vision 2030,” said Yousuf Mohamed Fakhroo, Qatar’s Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs.

These reforms, he adds, will benefit workers, entrepreneurs and the country as a whole.

Like many countries in the Middle East, Qatar used the kafala or sponsorship system, which has ensnarled over a million foreign workers for years, binding them to their employer and depriving them of all fundamental rights.

These workers come mostly from Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia, and work either for large construction companies or as domestic workers of wealthy Qataris.

Once hired, they have to hand over their passport and lose all fundamental rights. They cannot quit their job, leave the country or file a complaint of abuse without their sponsor’s permission on pain of arrest or deportation.

Human rights activists and NGOs welcomed the reform, which significantly tackles modern forms of slavery in the labour market.

Essential to the Qatari economy, the two million foreign workers represent 95 per cent of the local workforce.

“By introducing these significant changes, Qatar has delivered on a commitment. One that will give workers more freedom and protection,” said Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization.

Since Qatar was picked to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has been targeted by governments and international organisations for violations of workers' rights and abuses, followed by a number of investigations.

The criticisms have mounted in recent months. Following the spread of the novel coronavirus, reports have revealed the conditions in which foreign workers often find themselves.

Last week Human Rights Watch also released a very critical report slamming wages abuses by employers in the Gulf state.

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