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24 Aug 2020

Qatar: Salary abuses among migrant workforce demonstrate "unsuccessful" Govt. reforms, say HRW

Between January 2019 and May 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted interviews with 93 migrant workers, employed by more than 60 companies or employers. Evidence gathered from the workers demonstrates that Qatar’s labour reforms regarding the payment of wages to migrant workers have largely proven unsuccessful, the report states.

Salary abuses remain commonplace and “employers across Qatar frequently violate workers’ right to wages”. Workers are trapped in situations of abusive working conditions and fear reprisal for speaking out

  • 59/93 (63%) workers stated their wages had been delayed, withheld or not paid
  • 55/93 (59%) were not paid for overtime, despite working more than ten hours per day
  • 13/93 (14%) stated their employer had replaced their initial contract with one favouring the employer
“Without the migrant workers daily life in Qatar would come to a complete halt... Yet, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find migrant workers who haven’t experienced some variety of wage abuse” - Maham Javaid Finberg, Fellow at Human Rights Watch

HRW found two main factors facilitating abuse of migrant workers: the continued existence of the kafala system affords employers “unchecked power and control over migrant workers”, and deceptive recruitment practices in home countries and Qatar mean workers are burdened by debt they cannot pay off when their pay is lower than promised. Both of these factors lead to workers trapped in abusive conditions.

Complex business relationships and payment delays between subcontractors and labour providers, contractors and subcontractors, and clients (often government bodies) and contractors mean that payments to migrant workers on project sites are frequently delayed because of obstructions further up the value chain.

The report highlights that whilst the Qatar Government has introduced “piece-meal” reforms in recent years, shortfalls in the Wage Protection System (WPS) mean that the current system “in reality, does little to protect wages, and at best, can be better described as a wage monitoring system with significant gaps in its oversight capacity”. The report also finds that workers did not have confidence in Labour Dispute Resolution Committees, established to shorten the time taken to resolve labour disputes. 14 out of the 15 workers who had taken their case to the Committees had yet to be paid owed wages, despite the Government establishing a Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund to protect wages.

HRW had contacted a total of 11 companies in labour supply and construction to request input on migrant workers’ payment policies; at the time of writing they had not received any response. HRW received responses from FIFA, the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and the Qatar Government Communications Office; these can be read in full below.