from the desk
I remember that morning in May, 2014 when a room full of journalists and other officials gathered to hear from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The whole exercise was branded; from press identification cards and mupis, to the backdrop of the conference hall clearly shouting out its purpose: the introduction of wide-ranging labour market reforms by the Qatari government.
We journalists were ready to jot down history when it was being announced, and this time there was a general sense of anticipation that Qatar would be the first to break the anathema of the Middle East employer-driven market, being the pursuers of “kafala”, or bonded labour. And when the changes were finally announced, an hour later than intended, it shocked everyone present. “Was this the wide-ranging reform that were promised? Did we miss any important Arabic announcement?” the journalists asked each other. Two years and seven months later, when the law has finally been put into practice, we still have the same reservation: have we really missed something vital, or will this be all that is parted with? There is no denying that there have been sufficient reforms to cheer about like the definite term contracts drawn between the employee and the employer and which will shall not exceed a period of five years, workers with definite term job contracts can change their employment and sign new contracts if they wish so at the end of the contract period without any NOC but after approvals from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The best of the reforms is the repeal of the two-year ban.
Qatar Today tries to looks deep into the law and pick out the positives and ponders the roadblocks that prevent the country from having a labour market that is free from the perils of bonded labour, for it is always the human resource markets that reflect the health of a country's economy. We need to reflect on what Adam Smith highlighted many years ago, “Labour was the first price, the original purchase, money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or silver but by labour that all things of wealth was originally purchased.” And is it this wealth that we have left behind in the pursuit of other sources of affluence? Happy Reading.