Qatar introduces new laws for welfare of migrant workers, now implementation is the key focus

In a welcoming move on Sunday, the Emir of Qatar introduced two new laws aiming at abolishing its abusive kafala system. The new laws would do away with earlier restriction as per which migrant workers could not change jobs without the permission of their employer. Besides, Gulf county also introduced a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal, along with basic living allowances of 300 QAR (for food) and 500 QAR (for accommodation) for the workers who were not provided these facilities by their company.

These two progressive amendments, which were first announced by the Qatari Royal in October 2019, were finally signed and made into a law on August 30. The new law abolished the ‘No-objection certificate’ system and allowed workers to leave or change their job by providing a one-month written notice to their employer in case they had worked there for less than two years, else they would be required to give a two-month notice if they had worked for their employer for longer. Besides, the entire cost and transfer request would no more be demanded from the worker, rather would be processed by the Ministry of Labour.

Besides, as per the new law the minimum wage scale would also be applied to domestic workers who were earlier excluded from the entitlement. The minimum wage bar was decided referring to the suggestions put across by a 2019 study, conducted by International Labor Organisation (ILO). The study has not been made public, but certain reports claimed that it recommended a minimum wage of at least 1,250 QAR.

For too long, laws that ban workers from changing jobs without their employer’s permission, along with widespread low pay, have left migrant workers in Qatar at the mercy of abusive employers. We welcome the enactment of these laws, and now call on the Qatari authorities to ensure they are swiftly and properly implemented.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice

He added, “If implemented as promised, the removal of restrictions on workers changing jobs should make it easier for workers to escape abuse. This is an encouraging sign that Qatar may finally be heading in the right direction, and we call on Qatar to go further with these reforms, including removing the charge of absconding, to make sure that the rights of all workers are fully protected.”

Amnesty International commended the move taken by Qatari authorities but also highlighted that there was still some room for improvements. The organisation said that government needed to bring in new reforms pertaining to cancelling employers’ right to file criminal charges against “absconding” employees, those who leave without permission. Unfortunately, Qatari employers still hold that power.

“We call on Qatar to go further with these reforms, including removing the charge of absconding, to make sure that the rights of all workers are fully protected,” Amnesty official Steve Cockburn said in a statement. The labor reforms finally got installed into its legal system as the tiny oil-rich nation was moving closer to 2022 FIFA World Cup date. Qatar, which would be hosting the tournament, had been fervently criticised by media and rights groups all across the world over last few years for its rampant exploitation of its work force, most of whom were migrants from South Asian nations.

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