Qatar abolishes long-criticised kafala employment system: ILO


Qatar, an energy-rich nation, has effectively revoked the long-criticised kafala employment system, said the International Labor Organization.

According to an AP report, the country has also adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals (USD 275) for workers, says ILO.

It will take some six months for the law to be effective as was published in the country's official gazette.

As of now, migrant workers can change jobs before the end of their contracts without obtaining the permission of their current employers, says the UN body.

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The minimum wage rule requires employers to pay allowances for housing and food as well if they do not provide those for their workers.

The Amnesty International praised the move as “an encouraging sign that Qatar may finally be heading in the right direction,” although employers still can file criminal charges against “absconding” employees.

Qatar, whose citizens enjoy one of the world’s highest per-capita incomes due to its natural gas reserves, partially ended the “kafala” system in 2018.

Qatar is being transformed by a building boom fueled by its vast oil and natural gas wealth. Like other energy-rich Gulf nations with relatively small local populations, Qatar relies on well over a million guest workers, many of them drawn from South Asian nations including India and Nepal.

Rights activists long have criticised the “kafala” system as allowing abuses of those foreign workers.

This comes as Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the Arabian Peninsula nation. Having the winning bid for the soccer tournament brought renewed attention to laborers' rights in Qatar.

Meanwhile Sunday, the United Arab Emirates announced it now requires private employers to grant new fathers five paid days off after the birth of a child.

What is Kafala System?

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, according to FairWork.

The system is only applicable in the following countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and also in the Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon.

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.

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