Qatar’s Expatriate Workers welfare improvement taking longer than promised


FIFA decided in 2010 to award World Cup 2022 to the small state emirate of Qatar.

The decision was objected on by all, notably by the European FA’s on the ground that the host nation was too small and has a very harsh summer climate.

The ensuing clash between all stakeholders led naturally to the subsequent focus on the country and was followed on with a particular scrutiny of all its institutions and customs.

Its peculiar population(s) mix was looked at and what is known as expatriate resident workers sponsorship system by the local Nationals was exposed to the world.  It is labelled ‘Kafala’ and is meant to monitor and control all non GCC population movement in and out of every country.

Every individual person of any standing and nationality pursuing business, work or both would be required to use this umbrella if residence is to be allowed.

Many found and claimed that this system in the absence of standards and ‘up to date’ legislation, could only create easy opportunities for employers to deviate and profit from unfair exploitation to include more than often higher than usual abuse.

The Qatar government announced in May last year that it would do away with the ‘Kafala’ and replace it by some standard ‘Employment Agreement’ related residence permit this year.

To date, it is still a promise that has yet to see the light; however much the noisy debates between the various vested interests and factions within the government are far from cooling down.

In a few words, ‘Kafala’ has become a good business line that is well entrenched in the upper layers of the national elite and it seems quite difficult to get rid of.

in the meantime, the International Trade Union Confederation highlighted the rising risks of casualties resulting from the currently fast tracking of the games venues construction and Amnesty International has lately alleged that Qatar made minimal progress since its announcement last May.

The Qatar government amidst the widespread criticism over its way of looking after its expatriate workers, has already taken certain measures.  A Workers Charter was proposed back in 2013 tying all potential employers’ compliance with Qatari Law.  Since then, other pieces of worker welfare and protection have been added to date but the absence of any serious and firm action on behalf of the Qatari government has yet to bring significant changes.