Qatar vows ‘100% com­pli­ance’ with key la­bor re­form

Pop­u­la­tion tops 2.6m

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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