Qatar vows ‘100% compliance’ with key labor reform
Population tops 2.6m
Qatar said it expects “100 percent compliance” from businesses by the end of 2016 on a labor reform introduced to ensure the country’s vast migrant workforce receive their salaries on time. Government figures released in Doha yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Wage Protection System (WPS) show that 1.8 million - around 85 percent - of Qatar’s 2.1 million workforce are now paid electronically. That works out at around 37,000 companies.
But a senior labor ministry official told AFP that all companies will sign up to the scheme by the end of December. “Our aim is to have 100 percent compliance by the end of the year,” said Mohammed Ali Al-Meer, the director of Qatar’s labor inspection department. “We have a commitment from the (remaining) 15 percent, we have contacted them.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s population has passed the 2.6 million mark as the emirate draws in thousands of workers to build the infrastructure for the 2022 football World Cup, official figures showed yesterday. The tiny state has seen a more than fourfold increase in its population since 2000 as oil and gas revenues have fuelled a rapid economic transformation. A total of 2,611,522 people were resident in
the emirate in October, the figures released by the ministry of development planning and statistics showed. The population passed the 2.5 million mark in February.
The figures also revealed a huge gender imbalance, thought to be one of the highest in the world. Qatar counts almost two million male residents - many of them migrant workers - and just 637,866 women. The figures did not give a breakdown for the proportion of expatriate residents but estimates suggest they make up as much as 90 percent of the population. The population increase may not be sustained. A sharp fall in world energy prices since 2014 has created a major hole in public finances with deficits projected for the next three years. The government says all World Cup infrastructure will be completed but other projects have been put on hold, resulting in job losses for foreign workers.
The WPS was introduced on Nov 2 last year by Qatar in an attempt to improve labor conditions following widespread international criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers. Failure to pay salaries on time, especially for low-waged blue collar workers, was one of the biggest complaints voiced by rights groups against companies in the energy-rich Gulf state.
A 2013 academic study, “Portrait of LowIncome Migrants in Contemporary Qatar,” found that around a fifth of migrant workers were “sometimes, rarely or never” paid on time. Bosses of companies who do not pay staff on time face fines of up to 6,000 Qatari riyals ($1,650) for every worker who did not receive their salary, and up to one month in jail, under the WPS. Labor officials said 385 violations had been recorded by companies still not paying workers on time in the past 12 months, though it was unclear whether any bosses had been imprisoned.
Along with the figures, a statement from labor minister Issa bin Saad Al-Jafali AlNuaimi yesterday said WPS had ensured “greater protections for workers”. The reform has been largely welcomed by critics, but there have been complaints that the government dragged its heels in introducing the system - it was initially delayed for several months - and has not been strong enough in enforcing compliance, a charge denied by Doha. — Agencies