Qatar’s labor minister has been urged to improve conditions for the country’s 400,000 Nepali workers this week during a state visit to Kathmandu.
During his four-day trip, Abdullah bin Saleh Al Khulaifi was asked to implement better insurance policies for workers, establish orientation sessions before they travel to Qatar and require employers to pay the illegal commissions regularly demanded by manpower agencies.
The trip comes as Qatar seeks to hire hundreds of thousands of people in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup to support major projects such as the Doha Metro, football stadiums for the tournament and a road network to accommodate the growing population.
Just last month, labor officials approved work visa applications for 50,000 Bangladeshis to work in Qatar. And two weeks ago, Qatar’s Emir wrapped up a visit to India by thanking the more than 600,000 foreign workers here for their contributions to the country.
Among the most important demands made this week by Nepali officials was a push for better insurance coverage for their workers in Qatar.
Speaking to Nepali media, State Minister for Labour Tek Bahadur Gurung said:
“Qatar’s insurance policy covers only work-related and road accidents. We have asked them to provide 24-hour insurance cover throughout the contract period.”
This could mean that the families of Nepali expats killed by heart attacks or unknown causes, which make up a large proportion of deaths, would also be entitled to compensation.
According to Nepali publication Kantipur, at least 70 percent (205 out of 684) of the families whose relatives have died in Qatar over the past four years have not received compensation.
It quoted Nepal-based labor migration expert Bandita Sijapati as saying:
“In (a) society like Nepal where the whole family usually depends on the earning of one person, (the) death of a bread-winner is bound to affect everyone. Mainly women who become widow at a young age endure the worst hardship and are forced to live with stigma.”
Though no agreements were signed regarding life and health insurance policies and other requests, Nepali officials said the Qatar delegation received these demands positively.
For his part Al Khulaifi reiterated that changes to the kafala sponsorship system were in the works, and was quoted as saying:
“We need more migrant workers to build the 2022 World Cup infrastructures. But, we do not want to compromise on their health and safety.”
Nepali officials also brought up one of the biggest problems labor-sending countries have been facing in recent years: the fees that many expats pay to manpower groups in their home countries to to secure jobs here.
The issue was discussed by Qatar and Bangladeshi officials last month, and was also raised in Nepal this week.
“Nepali migrant workers are forced to pay between Rs20,000 (QR730) and Rs80,000 (QR2,921) despite Qatar’s pledge to make recruitment cost-free for immigrants. Nepal allows foreign employment agents to take up to Rs20,000 in fees, but many recruiting agencies charge gullible job-seekers even for free visa and tickets.”
Though both Nepal and Qatar have made it illegal for manpower agencies to charge expats hefty fees to secure their passage abroad, the practice continues unabated, putting many migrants in debt before they even begin working in Doha.
In a 160-page document released last year, Qatar Foundation called the fees “essentially a form of extortion by agents to secure jobs in Qatar.”
The report, titled Migrant Labor Recruitment to Qatar, questioned why unskilled and semi-skilled workers were made to pay for their own flights, medical tests, visas and other unspecified expenses, while employers in Qatar generally cover these costs for skilled and professional workers.
It also recommended that the Gulf state establish a National Employment Bureau to coordinate all recruitment policies and procedures.
According to QNA, Al Khulaifi responded to Nepali officials’ requests for a crackdown on manpower agencies by saying:
“Our law requires Qatari companies to pay for everything to hire migrant workers and anyone who does not abide by this law will be punished.”
Well, that is a bit of an about face.
…………….and require employers to pay the illegal commissions regularly demanded by manpower agencies?. correct my understanding please. is to pay or not to pay?
It is not illegal for a company to pay an agency a commission to find people, what is illegal is for that agency to charge prospective employees a fee.
They want the qatari company to pay the illegal Nepalese fee charged
At the moment the expat themselves are required to pay the fee or take out a loan to pay the fee in their home country to the employment agency for securing an opportunity for them. What this report is saying is that it should (and IMO rightly) sit with the employer in Qatar. That is how it has always worked for professional/skilled labour so why wouldn’t it work like that for blue collar workers… its exploiting the lower paid worker otherwise. Never ceases to amaze me that the person at the bottom of the food chain needs the most help/benefits but in practise always gets the least.
It’s only a law. And as we all know, it means nothing. Violations of laws are normal in Qatar. All the time.
Not sure what “law” you are refering to. The employment agencies in the expat’s home countries charge the fee to the expat themselves rather than getting this from the Qatar Employer.
It’s illegal for the agents in Nepal to charge workers to come and work in Qatar:
Talking to Nepali Times after the press conference, Gurung said manpower agencies are illegally charging anything between Rs 70,000-Rs 100,000 from Nepali migrant workers bound for Qatar.
“It’s illegal,” he said. “We’ll blacklist those manpower companies that charge money from the Qatar-bound Nepali workers.”
Ahh – I see. Thanks for sharing.
Teddy thank you and yes you are right, these fees are charged by HR agencies in Nepal and in many cases are illegal and arbitrary … In Qatar a fee is paid to the HR agency in Qatar which also included the employees travel ticket and associated fees to be paid to obtain the work visa from qatar authorities … Employee pays zero towards the qatari HR agency and 100% is borne on the employer
Well I can see a lot more Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan workers coming…
Shabina you missed a very important and critical part of your article, which was clearly mentioned in he Nepal based papers (yes we all have Qatar Google alerts)!
These HR agencies which charge theses sums are based in Nepal and not Qatar. And it is these agencies which charge the individuals hefty expanses for services which are provided by the employer such as plane tickets and Medical checks.
These HR agencies are non Nepalese government agencies and the men have very little recourse against them. They are a Nepal issue just like the Philipino govt agents asking for bribes to issue passports and documents to leave thier country is a Philipines issue
This article lacks the basic depth & Quality. Journalist, now a days are very good in copy and paste (Ctlr C + Ctlr V buttons) rather than Journalism itself.
Thats a good point because those are the agencies that need to have some consequences put into place and be checked up on to stop that practice.
Alternately you make it a lot easier for people to apply by themselves without needing an agency.
Good point. I thought that was implied (saying workers go into debt before they even come here), but now I’ve added in some text to explicit it.
The article says that Al-Khulaifi was asked to “..require employers to pay the illegal commissions regularly demanded by manpower agencies.” No one should be paying ILLEGAL commissions that are demanded if it is illegal! They should be punishing these agencies. No matter how much money an employer pays crooked agencies , these agaencies will demand a fee from the workers because they can and they know that the workers have no choice but to pay.
I don’t know how it works with these blue collared workers but I have heard for a domestic worker an employer has to pay about 15,000 riyals to the agency in Qatar which includes medical test and flight. That is plenty for the agencies! If domestic workers are being charged a fee than these greedy agencies should be blacklisted!