What should my salary be in Qatar

Qatar: Little progress in protecting migrant workers

(Beirut) - The Qatari authorities have repeatedly promised to guarantee migrant workers correct and punctually paid wages. But so far this has not led to any significant changes, Human Rights Watch said in a report and accompanying video released today. Despite some reforms in recent years, withheld and unpaid wages and other wage payment issues are still widespread among at least 60 employers and companies in Qatar.

The 78-page report "How Can We Work Without Wages?: Salary Abuses Facing Migrant Workers Ahead of Qatar's FIFA World Cup 2022" shows that employers across Qatar frequently violate workers' rights to their wages. Qatar is also failing to meet its obligation to the International Labor Organization (ILO) to protect migrant workers from such abuse and to abolish the so-called Kafala system, which binds migrant workers' visas to specific employers. Human Rights Watch found numerous cases of wage abuse-related abuse in a variety of professions, including security guards, waiters, baristas, bouncers, cleaners, executives, and construction workers.

"Ten years after Qatar won the 2022 World Cup, migrant workers are still struggling with late, non-payment and reduced wages," said Michael Page, deputy director of Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. "We have heard of workers starving because of late wage payments, indebted workers who toil for low wages in Qatar, and workers who see no way out of their poor working conditions for fear of reprisals."

Human Rights Watch interviewed over 93 migrant workers who work for more than 60 companies or employers and reviewed legal documents and reports for the report.

Qatar depends on 2 million migrant workers, who make up around 95 percent of the country's total workforce. Many are building or maintaining the stadiums, transportation, hotels and infrastructure for the upcoming 2022 World Cup. They come to Qatar in the hope of stable jobs and a secure income. Instead, however, many are faced with abuse of wage payments, driving them further into debt and keeping them trapped in these jobs with ineffective remedies.

59 workers said their wages were late, withheld, or not paid; nine employees said they were not paid because employers said they did not have enough customers; 55 alleged that they were not paid overtime even though they worked more than ten hours a day; and 13 said their employers had replaced their original employment contract with one that favored the employer. 20 reported receiving no end-of-employment benefits due to them; and twelve said employers made arbitrary deductions from their salaries.

These human rights violations have intensified since Covid-19. Some employers used the pandemic as an excuse to withhold wages or refuse to pay outstanding wages to imprisoned and forcibly repatriated workers. Some employees said they couldn't even afford groceries. Others said they went into debt to survive.

A 38-year-old HR manager at a construction company in Qatar, which has a contract to build the outdoor section of a World Cup stadium, said his monthly salary was paid at least five times in 2018 and 2019, up to four months late. "This hits me because I am late with my credit card payments, rent and school fees for my children because of delayed wage payments," he said. “Right now I've been waiting for my money for two months again ... That's how it works for all employees at my level and even for the workers. I can't imagine how the workers are doing. They can't take out a loan from a bank like me. "

The kafala system is one of the factors that fueled these human rights violations. In 2017 Qatar promised to abolish this system, and although the introduction of some measures weakened the Kafala system, employers still have in fact uncontrolled power and control over the migrant workers.

Abuse of wage payments is also fueled by fraudulent recruitment practices in both Qatar and workers' home countries, which require them to pay between approximately $ 700 and $ 2,600 to secure jobs in Qatar. So by the time workers arrive in Qatar, they are already in debt and trapped in jobs where they are often paid less than promised at the outset. Human Rights Watch found that 72 of the workers surveyed had taken out loans to pay recruitment fees. Business practices, including what is known as the “pay when paid” clause, make the situation worse. These practices allow subcontractors who have not been paid to delay payments to their own workers.

"I've been waiting for my money since August 2019," said a 34-year-old engineer who stood before the labor court for missing seven monthly salaries. He borrowed money from friends in Qatar to send to his family in Nepal. He went to court for the first time a year ago and is still waiting for his payments: “I'm starving because I don't even have money for food. How am I supposed to repay my loans if I don't get my salary [through legal channels]? Sometimes I think suicide is my only option. "

Abuse of wage payments is one of the most common and serious violations of law against migrant workers in Qatar and the Gulf region, where the kafala system exists. The Qatari government created a Wage Protection System (WPS) in 2015; Committees for the settlement of labor disputes followed in 2017; and in 2018 the Workers' Support and Insurance Fund.

However, Human Rights Watch found that WPS is more of a payroll control system with significant gaps in its monitoring capacity. Employers often take away the debit cards that employees are supposed to use to withdraw their wages. It can also be difficult, costly, time-consuming and ineffective to bring cases of human rights violations to wage payments to committees, and workers fear retaliation from employers. And the Workers' Support and Insurance Fund, which aims to ensure that workers get their money even when companies can't pay, has only been available since the beginning of the year.

In October 2019, the government announced major reforms to introduce a fair minimum wage for all migrant workers in Qatar. In addition, they should be given the right to change or quit their job without the consent of their employer. But obviously other control options for employers should be retained. The reforms should come into force in January 2020.

Human Rights Watch has sent the results of this report with a questionnaire to the Qatari Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of the Interior, FIFA and Qatar's Supreme Committee for the Organization of the World Cup (“Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy”). The organizing committee, Qatar's public relations office and FIFA responded.

FIFA wrote that FIFA and its partner, the “Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy”, had no tolerance for discrimination and abuse of wages, and that there was a corresponding policy against it. Through the work to protect workers' rights in the context of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, FIFA and the Organizing Committee knew the importance of protecting wages in the country. That is why they had set up a robust system that would prevent or mitigate wage abuse at the venues of the FIFA World Cup. In addition, there would be a mechanism for workers to report possible complaints and to receive compensation if companies do not meet the standards.

FIFA encouraged workers and NGOs wishing to report abuse at the FIFA World Cup venues to contact the Organizing Committee hotline. This would allow on-site teams to review the information and take appropriate action in the best interests of the workers concerned.

"Qatar only has two years left before the World Cup kick-off," said Page. “The clock is ticking and the country must show that it will keep its promise to abolish the Kafala system. Qatar needs to improve its wage control system, speed up its redress procedures and take additional measures to combat wage abuse, ”said Page.