Qatar to introduce its first ever minimum wage
Qatar has agreed to introduce its first ever minimum wage, as part of a range of labour reforms in the run up to its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
The wide-ranging reforms were agreed between the gulf state and various organisations, including one of its fiercest critics, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
"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 Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC.
The reforms were announced by Qatar's minister of administrative development, labour and social affairs, Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi, in a meeting with foreign diplomats.
A 'genuine breakthrough'
As well as introducing a minimum wage, the new tranche of reforms proposes to stop employers from preventing staff from leaving the country and to lodge job contracts with the government so that they cannot be changed on arrival in Qatar.
This follows claims by workers in Qatar, unions and rights groups that many have been lured to work in the Gulf for wages considerably less than what they had been promised.
Separately, state media announced the gas-rich emirate has signed bilateral accords with 36 countries from which it draws most of its two-million-strong foreign workforce, to provide legal protection for workers.
|Qatar's massive World Cup construction drive has been mired by
the deaths and alleged ill-treatment of migrant workers [AFP]
Despite the new proposals, workers' rights expert Nicholas McGeehan said more detail was still required.
"We need to see details on how and when all of this will be implemented," he told AFP.
"Kafala will end when workers are able to change employers and based on what we have seen today there is still no sign of that happening."
Burrow, however, described the wage proposal as a "genuine breakthrough" and said it would "end wage-based race discrimination in Qatar".
Since being selected to host the 2022 World Cup in 2010, Qatar has launched massive construction projects and faced huge international pressure to reform its labour laws.
In February 2015, Qatar introduced the Wage Protection System, designed to ensure workers receive their salaries electronically, either fortnightly or monthly.
Last December, Qatar also announced the end of its much-criticised 'kafala' system, under which all foreign workers needed a local sponsor in order to work, maintain residency, switch jobs or leave the country.
This was replaced by a contract-based system, but critics said it amounted to little more than a name change.