With reporting from Riham Sheble
Long-awaited changes to Qatar’s sponsorship (kafala) system and labor laws may come into effect before year-end, after the country’s business leaders appear to have approved the proposals.
Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents the private sector business community, has said it would back the proposed changes to the kafala system, as long as the law protects the interests of both the workers and the business owners.
Vice Chairman of the Chamber, Mohamed bin Ahmed Tawar Al Kuwari, is quoted in Arabic daily newspaper Al Arab as saying that he expects the reforms to the restrictive and controversial system to be introduced by the end of this year.
Al Kuwari told Al Arab that the proposed changes had been discussed with chamber members and a number of government agencies, and that the chamber had given its recommendations, although he did not detail what these are.
The official did not respond to a request for comment from Doha News yesterday.
He also told the newspaper that, while the current system works for Qatar’s business leaders, he understands why the government wants to introduce the changes to protect workers’ rights.
He said the business community will welcome with “goodwill” and be comfortable with the reforms if they equally protects both sides.
The chamber’s nod of approval to the reforms clears one of the last remaining hurdles to the new law being implemented and for many, is likely a welcome reversal of earlier concerns voiced by business leaders, some of whom previously said they felt the changes went a step too far.
The final step remains for the law to be approved by Qatar’s Advisory (Shura) Council and the Emir.
The government announced proposed changes to the labor law in May of this year. The legislation is supposed to make it easier for expats to switch jobs and leave the country.
As part of the reforms, companies will also be required to pay their employees through direct bank transfers, making it easier for expats and the government to scrutinize and document any late or non-existing payments.
However, many residents and international organizations criticized the fact that changes would fail to eliminate the exit visa system, and preserve no-objection certificate requirements for expats to change employers.
Despite pledges made before Eid Al Fitr by Labor Minister Dr. Abdullah Saleh Al Khulaifi that the changes would be brought in “as quickly as possible,” there has been concern that the consultation process was moving slowly.
In August, the Ministry of Interior’s director of research and follow-up, Brig. Nasser Mohammed al Sayed, warned that the reforms may not be finalized until next year.
Winning over the business community has been crucial to getting the reforms passed and the latest announcement seems to signal that discussions with the chamber moved more quickly than had been expected.
Pressure for change
Qatar has been under increasing international pressure to introduce labor law changes, as it ramps up its workforce to complete the various infrastructure projects ahead of hosting the World Cup in 2022.
The Gulf state has been heavily criticized by numerous organizations around the world for the working and living conditions of its blue-collar workers, and several reports have shed light on human rights abuses faced by its workforce.
Last month, the nation’s Emir spoke publicly for the first time on the issue, admitting in a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Qatar had faced “errors and problems,” but that authorities were “working seriously on improving the situation.”
Many saw this public declaration as a signal that changes could soon be in place.
Of course they are happy because nothing has really changed apart from a cosmetic face lift!
There was a change. Many new gov jobs are required to process more paper. Jobs for the boys. Don’t expect anything ever or one will be disappointed.
Lets wait for the officially published detail, but if the NOC and exit visas are indeed to remain then already we can be pretty disappointed.
Dear Hopefuls, do yourselves a favor and please do start getting disappointed as early as now.
‘Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents the private sector
business community, has said it would back the proposed changes to the kafala system, as long as the law protects the interests of both the workers and the business owners.’
Translation: ‘As long as we can still rake in the easy profits off the back of cheap, exploitable labour, then we’re just about ok with letting people have a tiny bit more control of their own lives, but we’ll still mostly ignore the sub-human living conditions and will show virtually no empathy to the fact that these people are away from their families for extended periods, and we may well take advantage of the haphazard implementation of the laws to act like nothing really has changed. Put it this way, you won’t be reminded of how you look in your passport picture anytime soon….. it’s Friday? so what!-get back to work!’
Looks like a mega public relations disaster for the year 2014 with no one having a clue to what is to be done or what is being done or how to go about the whole thing
As if anything is going to change…jeez they fought a civil war in the Americas over this.
I won’t be disappointed, because I would need a real expectation, of real change, to be dashed.
That won’t happen, so no disappointment.
Easy, like Friday Morning!
The land of slavery and racism is always trying to deceive the public’s opinion. Some are born with a gold spoon in their mouth and by the time they can take their first steps, they are worth more than others who worked and sweat decades. Yes, life is unfair we can’t just blame the Qatari people. Unfairness in Qatar has a special flavor. So many people drive by these poor slaves building these roads and highways, little if any respect is given. Locals look down to anyone that is not local and this is fine because they do not know any better. Expats tend to get that virus because at the end of the day, you gotta blend into the system and look like the rest. Why is it that people in Qatar show some respect and support to the lower class? It is really hard to picture yourself as them, because your brain just can’t do it. Picture yourself being always not respected, not allowed to enter any mall or anywhere, not paid fairly, not getting your sexual or body needs at all, not eating what you really love or never had? Why is it that a spoiled brat who never attempted to work hard in his/her life can enjoy all that and not those who are sweating blood and vain?
Good Qatari people Must exist. It is impossible that all Qatari people are unsympathetic or are alike. How long will the Kafala go on before someone sensible enough stand up and say.. you know what, we are rich and we have lots of money, maybe God will like us more if we be fair with people. Life is not only about your own happiness. Qatari people should not allow this to go any further. This is not to encourage people to revolt and make problems. This is only to shake the young and educated Qatari people. The public will really respect you if you show that you are not in favor to racism and inequality.