Suggesting a longer-than-anticipated delay in pushing through changes to Qatar’s labor law, a senior official has warned that promised reforms to the kafala sponsorship system may not take place until next year.
Speaking to Al Watan this week, the Ministry of Interior’s director of research and follow-up, Brig. Nasser Mohammed al Sayed, said a draft copy of the law is currently being discussed by various government bodies.
The legislation is supposed to make it easier for expats to switch jobs and leave the country, but has disappointed many residents who say it doesn’t go far enough to ensure their rights.
On the other hand, many in the Qatari business community have expressed concern that the changes go too far.
As part of the reforms, companies would also be required to pay their employees through direct bank transfers, making it easier for expats and the government to scrutinize and document any late or non-existing payments.
Al Sayed was quoted as saying, as translated by the Qatar Tribune:
“The law will be implemented after all legal procedures are completed by the Shura Council and Qatar Chamber. The law will be ready by this year or the coming one.”
Qatar has been talking about changing kafala for years.
The most recent pledges to reform the labor law began in March, when members of the European Parliament who were visiting the country said that Qatar was planning a “deep revision of the old system” by September.
According to a government-commissioned report that made several recommendations to improve working and living conditions for expats here, the changes were expected to be made even earlier, by the end of May 2014.
Though it is unclear when reform will be made, Qatar officials have not hesitated to tout the new potential legislation abroad as a response to criticism of the country’s human rights record.
That record is increasingly under scrutiny due to Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
To prepare for the tournament, the country will have to hire hundreds of thousands of blue-collar expats to help it build the infrastructure, public transport system and stadiums needed ahead of the games.