Recently, Qatar has brought about a change in its labour laws, scrapping rules requiring migrant workers to take their employers’ permission before changing jobs, and setting the monthly minimum wage at about $274, an increase of over 25 per cent. The reforms, which were announced by the Emir of Qatar in October 2019, were signed into law on Sunday.
What are Qatar’s new labour laws?
The first reform has abolished the unjustified ‘kafala system’ or requirement for a “no objection certificate” that migrant workers needed to get from their employers before changing jobs. Now, workers will have to serve a one-month notice period if they have worked for less than two years and notice period of two months if they have worked longer.
The second reform involves increasing the minimum wage by 25 per cent to $274 or 1000 Qatari riyals and an additional 300 QAR for food and 500 QAR for accommodation in case not provided by the company. These reforms are now applicable to workers of all nationalities and in all sectors, including domestic workers who were previously excluded.
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Qatar labour laws: Why were they changed?
Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and in the run-up to the sporting event that is viewed by more than half of the global population, the country has faced flak for its labour laws, seen by many as being exploitative of migrant labourers.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has hailed the move and notes that Qatar is the first country in the region to dismantle the “kafala” sponsorship system that is common in the Gulf region and requires workers to have a sponsor in the country they are working, who then becomes responsible for their visa and legal status. For unskilled workers, this means depending on their employers for such sponsorships.
ILO further said that the introduction of the non-discriminatory minimum wage would affect over 400,000 workers in the private sector and will increase remittances in the workers’ country of origin.
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