There has been much controversy about the working conditions for those in Qatar who worked towards the World Cup preparations, especially for migrant workers.
There is a widely reported figure of 15,021 migrant worker deaths. This features in the 2021 Amnesty International report.
Also, The Guardian reported 6,500 deaths back in February 2021.
In response to this, Qatar’s Government Communications Office said: “Although each loss of life is upsetting, the mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population.”
The Qatari government has denied neither of the above figures.
What progress has been made in Qatar?
As a result of significant pressure from the international trade union movement, Qatar has reformed many of its labour laws since 2017.
However, workers are still facing many problems. One of these problems stems from the kafala system, which allowed employers to have so much control over their workers that they could even restrict them from going home
Whilst this system has been abolished on paper, employers are often finding new ways to control their workers still, making use of deportation.
The minimum wage has also been increased, which raised the pay of thousands of workers. However, it is still extremely low.
For example, in 2017, the ‘temporary minimum wage of 750 rials (£180) a month was introduced. This was increased in August 2020 to 1000 rials (£240) a month.
This still equates to £1 an hour, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
Commenting on the workers’ conditions for the World Cup, the TUC recommend the following:
- Support the creation of a migrant workers’ centre so workers have a safe place to bring their cases.
- Raise the minimum wage, in consultation with global unions.
- Increase enforcement efforts, with more inspectors, more unannounced inspections, and more power for inspectors to sanction companies.
- Make the new joint worker committees compulsory for all companies, and work towards full freedom of association.
- Drop objections to receiving additional funds from FIFA to expand and increase the reach of the compensation fund.
- Reopen investigations into the deaths of thousands of migrant workers.
Julia Kermode, Founder of IWORK, comments:
“It’s shocking how migrant workers are treated in Qatar. Of some 30,000 workers there have been 6,500 deaths. These aren’t permanent employees either – they’re clearly all temporary workers brought in to help with the World Cup. According to Amnesty International, the World Cup was given to Qatar without any due diligence on how they treat workers.
“The sad situation highlights the importance of considering the human impact of cheap services – whether that’s building football stadiums or making clothes. Procurement decisions should not be made based on cost alone. If something is too cheap, we need to stop and consider how it’s possible for that price. Exploiting workers is a much cheaper – albeit immoral – way to run a business, even here in the UK, where we have laws that should protect people from this.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.