Qatar cabinet backs changes to 'kafala' labour system

GMT 15:20 2015 Thursday ,10 September

Arab Today, arab today Qatar cabinet backs changes to 'kafala' labour system

Camp housing foreign workers in Doha
Doha - AFP

Football World Cup 2022 host Qatar has agreed changes to its controversial "kafala" sponsorship system for foreign  workers, which critics have likened to modern-day slavery, state media reported on Wednesday.

At its weekly meeting, the cabinet backed draft legislation and took "measures to issue a law regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates," the official QNA news agency reported.

"The bill included provisions related to regulating the procedures and conditions of expatriates' entry, exit, residency and recruitment as well as switching to a different employer," QNA said, without giving further details.

The draft law still requires final approval by ministers.

There was no immediate word on when that might happen but one legal expert told local media that even after the law  is published in the official gazette, it will be another year before it is implemented.

In Qatar, laws are issued by decree. The Gulf emirate has no parliament, only a consultative Advisory Council, whose recommendations were considered by the cabinet, QNA said.

Qatar, which has been widely criticised for its labour practices ever since winning the right to host football's biggest tournament, had pledged to try to introduce reform to the sponsorship system by the end of this year.

The system has long been criticised by human rights groups as it means many workers cannot leave the country without permission from their sponsor and have difficulty changing jobs.

There are around 1.7 million foreign workers in Qatar, many working directly or indirectly on World Cup projects.

Qatar is carrying out a huge infrastructure programme costing $226 billion (202 billion euros).

Another labour reform in the pipeline is the Wage Protection System, which seeks to guarantee workers receive their wages on time.

This is expected to come into force in November.

Under the new system, workers will be paid either twice a month or monthly, with wages electronically transferred to their bank accounts.

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