World Cup “will accelerate labour reform in Qatar”

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 21 Oct 2015

New decrees in neighbouring countries increase pressure as football showcase looms

The run-up to the World Cup in 2022, coupled with recent legislative liberalisation in fellow GCC countries, is likely to increase the pace of labour reform in Qatar and bring benefits for unskilled sections of the workforce, according to experts.
 
Qatar’s human rights record, and the conditions of workers on its flagship construction projects, have come under scrutiny as football’s flagship event draws closer.
 
Decrees introduced by the UAE Ministry of Labour, which focus on the employment welfare of unskilled and migrant workers, have heightened the pressure on Qatar.
 
Workers on the World Cup project are overseen by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which manages the implementation of the project. In 2014, it introduced a contractually binding Workers’ Welfare standard across construction projects, holding itself accountable for the health and safety of employees.
 
The welfare standard ensures quality of accommodation, enforces payment compliance and mandates on-site inspections. Sara Khoja, an employment partner at Clyde & Co in the UAE, says the international focus on Qatar should spark change in its approach to employment practice. But she says changes across the GCC are equally influential.
 
“Multinational and regional companies in Qatar may become more aware of reputational risk [as the preparations continue],” says Khoja. “However, the Gulf region embarked on a process of modernising its labour laws long before the World Cup focus on Qatar. Kuwait, for example, issued a new labour law in 2010, which expressly covers domestic workers. Bahrain issued a law in 2012 prohibiting termination for discriminatory reasons. This legislative process and modernisation, as well as labour market development, was long on the agenda.”
 
“There will be greater inter-governmental arrangements to protect unskilled workers who are the more vulnerable segments of the labour market,” adds Khoja. “These should be approved through measures such as greater integration within the GCC of immigration systems, and cooperation with labour exporting countries.”