Qatar's heavily criticised kafala system officially 'dismantled', more labour reforms underway

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Aug 31, 2020, 12:53 PM(IST)

Migrant domestic workers carry placards during a protest in the Lebanese capital Beirut on May 5, 2019, to call for the abolishment of the sponsorship (kafala) system and for the inclusion of domestic workers in Lebanese labour laws Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

As part of country’s Kafala employment system, all labourers were required to fetch the permission of their ongoing employers before switching jobs

In fresh news coming out of Qatar related to labour laws in the country, labourers may find some reprieve after changes in the pre-existing laws.

As part of country’s Kafala employment system, all labourers were required to fetch the permission of their ongoing employers before switching jobs.

International criticism for Kafala

This provision has been heavily criticised by international labour groups and organisations. Qatar has been for long in scathing hot water for its treatment of labourers and exploitation of cheap labour in the country, which is rich in oil and natural gas.

Also read: Qatar enacts key worker reforms amid criticism

After news of the country hosting the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup broke out, fresh narratives of exploitation started spurring up from the country.

New labour laws in the country imply that the Kafala system is effectively ‘dismantled’, as a United Nations labour body put it on Sunday.

Starting now, migrant labourers will no longer require the permission of their employers to terminate the contract and begin a fresh job, the International Labor Organization said.

Change to follow

Another major change has taken shape in the country’s labour laws. Qatar now has a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Riyals ($275). Once the new provisions are published in the country’s official gazette, the law will take effect, as per the ILO.

Additionally, employers will now be required to provide allowances for food and rent in case the wage is unable to cover it.

Also read: Qatar wins air blockade case at International Court of Justice

Kafala system has been heavily criticised for binding workers to employers, and saw a minor change in 2018 as well. Earlier, the employers could decide whether their worker could leave the job and/or their country.

At the same time, the country’s citizens have one of the world’s highest per-capita incomes owing to its rich reserves. Owing to the oil and natural gas reserves, the country is witnessing a boom in construction. Employees come from South Asian countries like India and Nepal, who fell within the ambit of the Kafala system until now.

Many activists felt that the system allowed for the abuse of foreign workers and denial of rights.

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