Qatar Announces Series of Labour Reforms
25 October 2017.
The Qatari Government has announced a series of labour reforms, in a commitment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to institute a minimum wage, allow the monitoring of labour practices by independent experts, and reform the kafala (sponsorship) system that can prevent migrant workers from fleeing abusive employers.
The reforms indicated in the ILO document were announced ahead of an ILO meeting in Geneva in November 2016. Qatar has been under investigation by the International Labor Organization (ILO) “concerning non-observance by Qatar of the Forced Labour Convention”.
Qatar hosts nearly two million migrant workers, who comprise approximately 95 percent of its total labour force.
The ILO outlined a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar that will focus on extensive reforms of the kafala system, institute a nondiscriminatory minimum wage, improve payment of wages, end document confiscation, enhance labor inspections and occupational safety and health systems, refine the contractual system to improve labor recruitment procedures, and increase prevention of forced labour.
The announcement does not include detail on which specific laws will be amended and how the commitments will be implemented, with associated timescales. The reforms have therefore been strongly welcomed by the human rights community, but with calls for clarification and greater detail as to when and how the reforms will be implemented.
The kafala system is practiced throughout the Gulf. The Qatari reforms therefore serve as an important signal for other Gulf countries.
These proposed reforms, if accompanied with adequate implementation and enforcement, also represent a promising basis for ensuring the level playing field that businesses seeking to operate responsibly in the region need in order to operate with respect for human rights.