New labor laws in Qatar benefiting migrant workers
Published: 19:07 18 October 2019
New labor law has reformed in Qatar. Qatar has announced sweeping reforms to its labor market, with a ruling to end the ‘kafala’ system, marking a momentous step forward in upholding the rights of millions of migrant workers, including those from Bangladesh. The new labor law will come into effect next January 2020.
An International Labor Organization (ILO) press release quoted Country Director for Bangladesh, Tuomo Poutiainen, as saying in Dhaka on Friday, “These reforms will benefit approximately 400,000 Bangladesh migrant workers in Qatar, 75 percent of whom are employed in the construction sector”.
“By reforming the system, migrant workers will now have the freedom to change jobs, no longer rely on exit permits and see minimum wages for both migrant and national workers,” said ILO press release.
The ‘kafala’ (sponsorship) system emerged in the 1950s to provide temporary, rotating labor that could be rapidly brought into the country during periods of economic boom and expelled during low-growth periods.
“It remains the routine practice in remaining Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well as Jordan and Lebanon,” the release said.
On 16 October, the Council of Ministers of the State of Qatar unanimously endorsed new legislation allowing workers to change employers freely. Workers in Qatar had previously required a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employer.
A Ministerial Decree was also signed, removing exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel. Together, these steps mark the end of kafala in the country.
In addition, the Council of Ministers endorsed a new law to establish a non-discriminatory minimum wage, the first in the Middle-East. The legislation is expected to come into force by January 2020.
“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labor market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General.
“This will improve the protection of migrant workers, as it will not only reduce the wage gap but also the labor rights gap that previously existed between migrant and national workers.”
The elimination of the NOC requirement will allow workers to freely change employers following an initial probationary period. Should they wish to change employers during this period, the new employer would need to reimburse recruitment costs to the original employer.
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