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Qatari labour laws reforms

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Qatari labour laws reforms:


Context:

Qatar has brought about a change in its labour laws. The reforms, which were announced by the Emir of Qatar in October 2019, were signed into law recently.

  • These reforms are now applicable to workers of all nationalities and in all sectors, including domestic workers who were previously excluded.

What are Qatar’s new labour laws?

Abolition of 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.

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.

Background:

Qatar has introduced a series of labour reforms since its selection as the 2022 World Cup host, with the event setting in motion a huge construction programme employing foreign workers.

What is kafala?

The ‘kafala’ system is a system that lays down obligations in the treatment and protection of foreign ‘guests’. Kafala means ‘to guarantee’ or ‘to take care of’ in Arabic.

  • Under the system, a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor (‘kafeel’) during the contract period.
  • The migrant worker cannot enter the country, transfer employment nor leave the country for any reason without first obtaining explicit written permission from the kafeel.

When did the kafala system start?

The kafala system began in the 1950s when several Middle East countries started hiring foreign workers to accelerate development following the discovery of oil.

Where is the kafala system practiced?

It is being practiced in the Gulf Cooperation Council member countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and also in the Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon.

Concerns associated with this practice, why it should be abolished?

  1. Human rights groups say the migration management system enables exploitation and forced labor—labor extracted by under the threat of penalty, and not offered voluntarily by the worker.
  2. The media have likened employment conditions under kafala to “modern-day slavery.”
  3. Some migrant workers end up absconding from their employers to seek refuge elsewhere. In the Gulf states, absconding is considered a crime and that leads to indefinite detention and deportation.
  4. Complaining puts them in conflict with their sponsor, who has the power to cancel their residence visa and have them deported.
  5. The kafala directly contradicts the labour law. The employer can dictate the recruitment process and working conditions.
  6. It restricts labour mobility. It prohibits any mobility on part of the worker unless approved by the kafeel. If the kafeels are unwilling to let them go, workers cannot leave them for better employment.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Geographical location of Qatar.
  2. Recent labour law reforms.
  3. What is Kafala system?
  4. Countries where Kafala system is practiced?

Mains Link:

What is ‘kafala’ labour system? Recently Qatar abolished this system. Discuss its significance.

Sources: Indian Express.