Changes to Qatar’s Labor Law, including a provision to pay workers their salaries directly into their bank accounts, could be made by the end of this year, the nation’s labor minister has suggested.
During a meeting with newspaper editors to discuss countering negative international criticism of Qatar, Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al Khulaifi offered an update on the status of much-awaited changes to the labor law.
He said that several proposed revisions to the law are expected to be discussed by Qatar’s Advisory (Shura) Council at its next session, according to the Qatar Tribune.
If the council approves the changes, they then require the Emir’s signature before coming into effect.
The e-payment Wage Protection Scheme is one of a number of measures the government has proposed in a bid to better protect the rights of expat workers in Qatar. Other revisions to the exit permit and no objection certificate requirements are expected to make it easier for expats to leave the country and change jobs.
All non-Qatari workers are bound by the rules of the state’s kafala (sponsorship) system, which has been heavily criticized by international media and human rights organizations for being too restrictive.
In May this year, the government announced a series of reforms to the system and the Labor Law which they said would improve workers’ rights, although many critics said the scope of these changes did not go far enough, and no timeline was given for the introduction of the new measures.
Before Eid Al Fitr in July, the labor minister promised that the reforms would be made “as quickly as possible,” although he did add that a number of groups still had to be consulted on the changes.
Qatar’s business community had initially voiced its concern over the new rules, which many of its members felt went too far. However, the Chamber of Commerce, which represents the business sector, finally gave its approval of the changes last month.
Missed and late wage payments are among the top complaints expressed by Qatar’s blue collar workforce. In July this year, the Cabinet approved a draft law that would make it mandatory for all companies to pay their workers by electronic bank transfer at least every two weeks.
The new system, which would be created and handled by Qatar Central Bank, and supported by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), also makes it easier to track payments.
Fielding questions, Al Khulaifi also ruled out setting a minimum wage, saying that such a move would compromise Qatar’s “free economy,” which operates according to supply and demand, The Peninsula reports.
Finally, the labor minister said plans were underway to build five “labor cities.” The huge accommodation sites would be dotted across Qatar, with the capacity to house some 25,000 workers, and be built in coordination with the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP).
He added that the plans were not in response to criticism Qatar has faced from international media over workers’ rights, but rather part of a strategy devised five years ago to accommodate the state’s rapidly increasing workforce, as it strives to meet looming deadlines for its numerous, big infrastructure projects.
Barwa Real Estate has developed the first of these, the Barwa al Baraha complex in the Industrial Area. Expected to accommodate around 20,000 workers, facilities on the site will include four dining halls and two mosques.
Another 20,000 residents are expected to be housed in the next phase, which is currently under construction and is expected to be completed within 18 months.
A final phase in the 1.8 million sqm development will contain a medical clinic and accommodate senior staff in single-bedroom units.