As Qatar gets ready to host the 2022 World Cup, it is pushing back against allegations of worker exploitation. Media reports that just before the International Labour Organization (ILO) decides whether or not to investigate Qatar for abuses, the country has signed 36 worker protection agreements with countries that provide much of its migrant labor force.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that state news agency QNA didn’t give details of the bilateral agreements, but reported that in addition to five memorandums of understanding there are preparations for a minimum wage and an employment support fund that would help workers who are owed overdue wages. For years, campaigners have pointed to the kafala system as a driver of abuse:
“Labor and rights groups have attacked the gas-rich state for its “kafala” sponsorship system, which forces the country’s 1.6 million mainly Asian foreign workers to seek their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country – a measure groups say leaves workers open to exploitation.”
Last year, Qatar made changes to this system by letting workers change jobs if they have completed their contract. The government also says it will fine businesses that confiscate employee passports. Activists say these measures haven’t gone far enough.
Qatar is expected to make a report about these reforms by November to the International Labor Organization before the ILO decides if it will pursue a commission of inquiry — “a rare sanction which the United Nations agency has imposed only about a dozen times since World War Two.”