Report: Qatar’s construction workers suffer as employers flout labor law

The majority of Qatar’s unskilled construction workers are subjected to substandard living conditions and wages, a new report has found.

The National Human Rights Committee is calling for changes to the sponsorship, or kafala system, after a telling study of more than 1,100 laborers, as reported by local media.

Among the findings:

  • Most laborers earn QR800-QR1100 a month ($219-$300). About 68 percent said they were unhappy and grossly underpaid, finding the amount insufficient to sustain themselves and their families back home.
  • About 40 percent said they worked for much more than eight hours a day.
  • One-third of those surveyed said that they never received their wages on time, and almost the same percentage have never had any contact with their sponsors.
  • About 43 percent of them live in a room with six beds. A third of them share one toilet. According to the NHRC, the laborers’ accommodations do not meet health and hygiene standards.
  • Almost 13 percent said they wanted to return home.

The Peninsula reports:

Workers not being able to freely change employers and travel overseas whenever they would like to is a major hurdle to enforcing the labour law, the rights body has said.

It has also cited repatriation of foreign workers by their employers without any justification and summary termination of job contracts of some as being against the spirit of the labor law.

“What is, therefore, needed is to reduce the powers of the sponsor which they enjoy under the existing sponsorship system,” the NHRC has said.

Employers are objecting to any curtailing of their rights, saying the problem rests with runaway employees and sponsors who flout the law.

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