Qatar announces non-discriminatory minimum wage, changes to kafala system

The announcement includes a non-discriminatory minimum wage and end to the requirement of no objection certificate from the employer to change jobs

August 31, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
The conditions of migrant workers have often led to Qatar being described as a "21st century slave state" (Photo: EFE)

On Sunday, August 30, Qatar announced a non-discriminatory minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari Rials (around USD 274) for all its migrant workers. Qatar’s ministry of administration, development, labor and social affairs (ADLSA) also announced crucial changes in the country’s infamous kafala system.

According to the ministry, the employees will no longer need a “no objection certificate” from their employers to change their jobs. According to the rules of kafala or sponsorship system, an employee is not allowed to change jobs during the contract period without the permission of the employer. Now, an employee can change jobs after serving a notice period. 

Qatar has been in the limelight due to poor working conditions and mistreatment of migrant workers by their employers since the country was awarded the 2022 football world cup contract. The Qatar government had announced several reforms earlier, but activists have argued that those reforms have remained on the paper and it is very difficult to implement them.

Prior to Sunday’s announcement, Qatar had a temporary minimum wage for its migrant workers of 750 Qatari Rials (QR), which is equivalent to USD 206. The announcement of non-discriminatory minimum wage for all migrant workers irrespective of their nationality makes Qatar the first Gulf country to do so. It is now only the second Gulf country to have a minimum wage after Kuwait.

According to the announcement, employers will have to pay an additional 800 QR (around USD 219) per month — 500 for accommodation and 300 for food — to their employees.

The ministry also announced formation of a national minimum wage commission to review and revise the wages periodically.

“The State of Qatar is committed to creating a modern and dynamic labor market, in line with Qatar Vision 2030. These new laws mark a major milestone in this journey and will benefit workers, employers and the nation alike,” Qatar News Agency quoted Yousuf Mohamed Fakhroo, minister of ADLSA.

Several workers have complained about the non-payment of wages and other dues by their employers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The official statement also ensures stricter action against the employers who fail to pay their employees on time and fines against those who fail to provide them with accommodation.  

The proposed law will come into force after 6 months of its publication in the official gazette.   

The announcement has been welcomed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which called it a “milestone in the labor reform agenda for the state of Qatar”.

Right groups have been demanding an end to the kafala system altogether and the right to join trade unions as necessary reforms for an effective implementation of the announcements made in the past.