In a historic move, the State of Qatar has introduced major changes to its labour market, ending the requirement for migrant workers to obtain their employer’s permission to change jobs, while also becoming the first country in the region to adopt a non-discriminatory minimum wage.
This new law, coupled with the removal of exit permit requirements earlier in the year, effectively dismantles the controversial “kafala” sponsorship system and marks the beginning of a new era for workers and employers in Qatar.
The new minimum wage of 1,000 riyals (£205) per month will be introduced in six months’ time for existing contracts, replacing the current temporary minimum wage of 750 riyals. It will apply to everyone, including domestic workers. If employers do not provide accommodation or food, they must pay an additional allowance of 800 riyals.
Rights groups have welcomed the reforms but said the new laws must be enforced rigorously if workers were to benefit.
Amnesty International said Qatar had taken a significant step to protect migrant workers but that the minimum wage remained too low. “To truly make a difference it will need to be regularly reviewed and progressively increased to secure just and favourable conditions for workers,” said Amnesty’s head of economic and social justice, Steve Cockburn.
The introduction of a non-discriminatory minimum wage should directly affect around 400,000 workers in the private sector, and, through higher remittances, will improve the lives of millions of family members in the workers’ countries of origin.
To ensure compliance with the minimum wage, the government is enhancing detection of violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of inspectors.
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said, “This is very good news for migrant workers in Qatar. The leadership shown by Qatar in dismantling the kafala system and introducing a minimum wage is long-awaited news for all workers.
The ITUC stands ready to support the Government of Qatar in the implementation of this historic move, to ensure all workers are aware of the new rules and benefit from them. Other countries in the region should follow Qatar’s example.”
Roberto Suárez Santos Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) said, “These reforms will make a major contribution to the efficiency and productivity of the Qatar labour market. IOE stands ready to support the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government in supporting employers during this transition. Our congratulations to Qatar and its Chamber of Commerce!”
The ILO has worked closely with Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs and with employers’ and workers’ organizations to support the adoption and enhancement of laws, policies and procedures relating to labour market mobility and the new minimum wage in Qatar. Further support will be provided for the implementation and enforcement of the new laws.