Qatar has committed to scrapping controversial aspects of its ‘kafala’ labour regulations, which have underpinned large-scale development projects in the country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Rules that force workers to obtain exit permits to leave the country and secure the consent of employers to change jobs are set to be discontinued as part of a series of employment reforms. Although the exit permit requirement was dropped for most workers last year, the authorities have now agreed to expand the law to cover everyone.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations employment rights agency that has been working on reforms with Qatar’s government since 2017, a “non-discriminatory minimum wage” will also be introduced.
With the changes having been adopted unanimously by Qatar’s governing council of ministers, final approval is anticipated in January, the ILO said.
The head of the ILO’s Qatar project office, Houtan Homayounpour, added: “With these announcements we can officially announce the abolishment of kafala. It is huge news for the millions of workers who are here and the State of Qatar.”
The kafala terms have been widely scrutinised in the wake of the controversial decision to award the World Cup to the tiny country. A huge construction project has been undertaken to ensure eight stadia, all situated within a 30-mile radius – are ready to host games during the tournament.
The employment reforms, which will require sign-off from Qatar’s ruler, are expected to be finalised in the next month.
Qatar said in February that it was committed to reforming its labour laws after a fresh report from Amnesty International highlighted widespread exploitation of workers.
In May, football’s global governing body FIFA dropped plans to expand the 2022 tournament from 32 to 48 teams – a move that would have put further strain on Qatar’s preparations and its workers.