Qatar pledges to end 'kafala' employment

Andrew Cummings
October 18, 2019

Italian ambassador Pasquale Salzano lauded Qatar and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs for the approval of draft laws that further protect workers' rights.

"Cabinet has adopted new legislation related to a new law for minimum wage and also a new regulation to facilitate labour 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, along with other wealthy Gulf Arab states, has come under fire for what rights groups describe as dire labour conditions.

The level of the minimum wage, a key reform given the low pay for migrant workers in Qatar, the world's richest per-capita country, will be set later this year, the ILO said, and not discriminate between nationalities. There are about 20 lakh foreigners working in this country, of which a large number are Indians.

Qatar hosts about two million migrant workers but has - for years - failed to protect their rights under global law.

The International Labour Organisation described the measures as "a momentous step forward in upholding the rights of migrant workers" and said they were aimed at ending the "kafala" (sponsorship system).

In August, workers inside Qatar won concessions after hundreds of labourers went on a rare strike in the emirate to oppose delays in salary payments.

His Excellency also said that the Government of the State of Qatar expresses its appreciation for the technical support provided by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to achieve the outputs of the Technical Cooperation Program and that the Ministry is continuing this constructive cooperation with the ILO Office in Doha to implement the agreed action plans, H.E. the Minister added.

It said the new reforms were expected to come into force by January 2020.

Numerous workers toiling on Qatar's building sites, sweeping its streets and cleaning private homes come from Asian countries like Nepal, India and the Philippines.

In recent weeks human rights groups such as Amnesty International have maintained the pressure on Qatar to ensure that pledges to reform the system are matched by reality.

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