New labour laws in Qatar that allow foreign workers to freely change jobs and leave the country without the approval of their employers has been praised by the International Labour Organization (ILO), as a momentous step forward in upholding the workers’ rights.
The UN agency said that the reforms, which will enter into force by January, mark the end of an employee sponsorship system, common across the whole Middle East, known as kafala. The Gulf state has also endorsed a new law establishing a non-discriminatory minimum wage: a first for the region.
There are more than 1.9 million migrant workers in Qatar, about 90% of the country’s total population, according to the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. Most are from the south and south-east Asian countries including Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labour market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy,” ILO chief Guy Ryder said after the Council of Ministers unanimously endorsed the draft laws.
Under the new laws, workers will be able to change jobs following an initial probationary period. Previously, they required a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their employers. The removal of exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel, means that they also will be free to leave Qatar, whether temporarily or permanently, without the permission of their employers.
The non-discriminatory minimum wage will apply to all nationalities and all sectors of the labour market. The level will be set later this year. The ILO said that it has been working with the Qatari authorities since November 2017 through a three-year technical cooperation programme. An ILO project office there, established in April 2018, has been supporting the labour reform agenda.
“Qatar is changing. The new tranche of laws will bring an end to ‘kafala’ and put in place a modern industrial relations system,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “We recognize that a new evidence-based minimum wage rate will ensure dignity for migrant workers. We urge the government to announce this as quickly as possible.”
PAKISTANI WORKFORCE IN UAE: In a meeting with Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistan Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari on sidelines of fifth ministerial session of Abu Dubai Dialogue, UAE Minister for Human Resources and Emiratisation Nasser Bin Thani Al Hameli has offered Pakistan to give access to its labour market’s database, which would help boost export of Pakistani workforce to the former.
The initiative would provide Pakistan up-dated information of the job opportunities in the UAE’s labour market, besides enabling it to train the workforce as per the market demand. Zulfikar Bukhari informed the UAE minister that Pakistan wanted to integrate a digital platform with UAE for ensuring fair and transparent recruitment process, besides minimizing its cost.
He said that the country is ready to link its digital platform with the UAE. Both the sides also agreed to activate the joint committee, which was formed for implementation of the memorandum of understanding recently signed to ensure the protection of Pakistani workers’ rights and resolving their legal job disputes in the emirates.
It was also decided to prepare a three-year plan for the recruitment of Pakistani workforce. The special assistant said that the government stood with its promise of providing respectable jobs to the youth at local and international level. He said that the country’s economy is moving in the right direction under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He said that the government had been taking practical measures to create job opportunities for youth within the country and abroad. The export of manpower witnessed 51 per cent increase during the first seven months of the PTI government, he said. The Overseas Ministry has been fostering relations with brotherly countries to stabilize the country’s economy by sending more and more workforce abroad.