Good News for Migrant Laborers: Kafala System to be Abolished

According to the International Labor Organization, Qatar’s Kafala System for migrant workers will be abolished next January. According to The Guardian, the Minister of Qatar has agreed that the kafala must be put to an end, and that a new minimum wage will be introduced; one that doesn’t discriminate against migrant and local workers.

The non-discriminatory minimum wage which Qatar plans to implement is a first among Gulf nations.

kafala system

Qatar to End Kafala System Next January

What is Kafala?

In the Kafala system, migrant workers are sponsored by their employers. This basically ties the workers to the employers, in such a way that the workers cannot leave Qatar or find another job unless they get approval from their employer. For years, many human rights organizations like UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO), have rallied to have this system abolished not just in Qatar but in other Gulf states who apparently have the same practice.

FIFA 2022

Last December 2, 2010, FIFA announced that Qatar will be hosting the 2022 World Cup. This meant lots of jobs on infrastructure, among others, which required lots of migrant workers. More than ever before, the spotlight has been placed on migrant workers’ rights in the country, to which the government of Qatar has responded by signing an agreement with ILO to end the kafala system.

Worker Protests

A report from Amnesty International revealed that more than 2,000 workers from Hamton International, with migrant workers mostly from Bangladesh, have given up on justice and decided to go home penniless since March of last year. The company mentioned that it was having financial difficulties, and it stopped paying their workers for several months. After this incident, the government of Qatar has promised to initiate reforms as FIFA World Cup 2022 looms.

New Minimum Wage

Aside from abolishing the kafala system, Qatar is expected to improve the minimum wage level for all workers, migrant or not, by the end of this year. This is justified by the fact that reports have shown migrant workers aren’t paid enough for labor jobs related to the World Cup. In addition, the working conditions during much of the year is really intense. Qatar is really hot and humid, and medical studies have shown that many young workers have suffered heart attacks while working in Qatar due to heat stress.

Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world, is truly capable of paying their workers the wage they deserve. As a dynamic country, it is also surely capable of making the necessary reforms, and indeed, substantial progress can be seen.