October 26 – Under the global spotlight over its treatment of foreign workers, Qatari authorities have agreed a range of labour reforms including the introduction of a minimum wage and the abolition of the controversial kafala system under which foreign workers must get their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.
Qatari state media reported that antiquated laws on “the regulation of the entry and departure of expats”, which have caused widespread concern in the build-up to the 2022 World Cup, were being changed following a cabinet meeting, a move that has been welcomed by the International Trade Union Confederation.
“The new guidance from Qatar signals the start of real reforms in Qatar which will bring to an end the use of modern slavery and puts the country on the pathway to meeting its international legal obligations on workers’ rights,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.. “Following discussions in Doha there is a clear government commitment to normalise industrial protections for migrant workers.”
“Much remains to be done, but these steps open the way for workers to be treated with dignity and for their lives and livelihoods to be protected.”
The reforms were announced on the eve of an International Labour Organisation meeting in Geneva which could have led to a formal investigation by the UN agency into Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.
A spokesman for Amnesty International, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to improve human rights in Qatar, was quoted as saying: “We are not able to assess the significance of these developments until we have seen the full details of the government’s commitments. However, today’s announcements have clear potential to have a positive impact on migrant workers’ lives, depending on how they’re implemented.”
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