Qatar approves minimum wage law

Updated October 18, 2019

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Migrant labourers work at a construction site in Doha, Qatar on March 26, 2016. — Reuters
Migrant labourers work at a construction site in Doha, Qatar on March 26, 2016. — Reuters

BEIRUT: Qatar’s government said on Thursday it adopted a new minimum wage law and will scrap mandatory exit visas for all workers, part of a broad labour reform programme ahead of its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The Gulf state, which relies on about two million migrant workers for the bulk of its labour force, is also planning to ease curbs on changing employers, Qatar’s administrative development, labour and social affairs ministry said.

Qatar, along with other wealthy Gulf Arab states, has come under fire for what rights groups describe as poor labour conditions. The statement said the cabinet had adopted new legislation related to the draft law on a minimum wage, though it did not disclose what level the wage could be.

It added it passed another draft law which will lead to the scrapping of exit permits for all workers, adding work was also underway to enable employees to change employers more easily.

Qatar last year eliminated exit visas for some foreign migrant workers, but rights groups considered the reform incomplete as it did not apply to domestic workers and allowed companies to keep the visa requirement for up to five per cent of staff.

The International Labour Organization 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).

This system is common in Gulf states where large portions of the population is foreign. In Qatar it requires workers to obtain their employers’ consent before changing jobs, which advocate groups say leaves them open to abuse.

“These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy,” the ILO said in a statement.

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

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019