Ministry of Labour
The State of Qatar is constantly keen and always stresses that a safe and healthy work environment is a necessity, and that the safety of workers is a priority for it.
The State of Qatar's efforts in this regard are not exerted to satisfy a particular party, states, individuals or organizations, but they are based on a religious, moral, humanitarian and constitutional standpoint, and in accordance with the authentic customs and traditions of its people, as well as their civilizational values in terms of generous hospitality.
Under the directives of its wise leadership, and before winning the honor of hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the State of Qatar was keen to enact a lot of legislation and laws and carry out extensive reforms in the labor environment, in line with the highest standards in the international labor sector. There is no doubt that the pace of these efforts has increased and witnessed environmental reforms, and the labor market witnessed many positive changes, that were praised by all concerned parties, especially the International Labour Organization (ILO), which opened its office in Doha.
In fact, it is not possible in any way to enumerate all the reforms of the labor environment and market in Qatar over the past ten years, since Qatar won the honor of organizing the World Cup in October 2010, as there are many reforms in various fields that have benefited hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers.
Despite the implementation of the reforms and their positive effects in workers, some unscrupulous people kept repeating their allegations, ignoring, and even being skeptical about those reforms and labor achievements, as they are far away from responsibility, truth and transparency.
The ILO is the first reference in these matters, as it has shocked those who don't want to hear the truth, and revealed in a report issued in November about the great shift that the Qatari labor market has witnessed during the past few years, after the legislation adopted by the government to reform the labor sector entered into force.
The report, issued by the ILO office in Qatar, affirmed the Qatari government's implementation of reforms, the Ministry of Labour's keenness on the continuity of labor legislative reforms, and the continuation of the partnership with the organization beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, through continuous cooperation programs in the development and modernization of reforms and legislation with various international organizations.
The report focused on the strong partnership between the Ministry of Labour and ILO , and the leading role played by the Organization's office in Doha, which is the first in the region, in this field. The report also highlighted the partnerships that bring together the Ministry of Labour and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy with many specialized international organizations.
This was confirmed by Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Ministry Mohammed Hassan Al Obaidli in exclusive statements to Qatar News Agency (QNA), as he explained that the technical cooperation with the ILO in previous years came at the request of the State of Qatar, noting that the joint programs and projects have enhanced opportunities to benefit from international experiences and apply global standards in the labor sector.
In this context, he said that the State of Qatar has become a role model in the region in the field of labor, and it will start showing its distinguished initiatives at the Asian labor ministers conference to be held at the end of this year in Singapore.
Al Obaidli hailed the commitment of Qatari employers and companies to labor laws and legislation, noting the active role and positive participation of Qatar Chamber and its participation in the implementation of many pioneering programs and projects to develop labor environment, within technical cooperation with the International Labour Organization.
He explained that the ministry has implemented plans and training programs, with the aim of strengthening and building the capabilities of its employees in partnership with a number of international organizations, centers and institutes, adding that these training programs contributed to raising the capabilities of employees.
He pointed out that the State of Qatar has always believed in constructive dialogue, cooperation and coordination with various international and human rights organizations, in the interest of the country's labor market, adding that the laws and reforms that have been implemented come within the development strategy and in implementation of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Very few labor complaints received by the ministry, compared to the number of workers in the country, he said, noting that about 89 percent of workers in the country have benefited from the labor laws and legislation, according to a survey conducted by the institute of research and studies at Qatar University.
Regard the false media allegations surrounding the labor file, Al Obaidli said that the State is being subjected to a fierce and systematic misleading media campaign, aimed at undermining it as it will host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, stressing that the laws Qatar enacted and the reforms it implemented, as well as the positive results of these efforts that have been reflected on the expatriate workers, are the best response to refute these allegations.
The Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Ministry of Labour also affirmed that the State of Qatar is steadfastly moving forward with its efforts, and will continue to work with the relevant authorities to complete the reform process and enhance the State's position as a pioneer of change in the region, without paying attention to those who try to dissuade it.
Accordingly, Al Obaidli's statements to QNA fully confirm that the lies and allegations of skeptics about the reforms of the labor sector and the labor environment in Qatar and the benefit of expatriate workers from them are untrue and biased, and have their own agendas.
Critics ignore all the positive effects of the labor sector in Qatar without justifications and arguments, forgetting ILO's reports, as the first UN organization responsible for such issues, as well as the reports of other relevant international bodies that closely documented reforms from inside Qatar and met with the concerned officials, government, employers and the workers themselves. Those skeptics do not even mention that hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers in Qatar have been able to change their workplace since announcing the facilitation of procedures allowing migrant workers to change jobs in September 2020. They also failed to indicate that more than 400,000 workers benefited directly from the new minimum wage, which resulted in an increase in salaries and other financial incentives.
As a result of labor market reforms, hundreds of thousands of workers have been able to leave the State of Qatar and return to it without obtaining prior permission from their employer, since exit permits were canceled in 2018, while the wage protection system contributed to protecting more than 96 percent of workers from violations related to wages. In addition, Qatar visa centers in the labor-sending countries contribute significantly to reducing the exploitative practices that workers are exposed to before their arrival in the State of Qatar, as well as the decision to extend the period of working hours in which it is prohibited to work in open workplaces during the summer to reduce effects of heat stress.
In this context, the State of Qatar has also strengthened the procedures for implementing laws to protect expatriate workers and hold violating employers accountable, while the number of inspectors working for the Ministry of Labour is witnessing a continuous increase every year, while enhancing their abilities to conduct comprehensive investigations of working conditions, refer violators to labor courts, and raise awareness of laws relating to employees and employers.
More companies are also held accountable every year for violating labor laws, with the increase in inspection campaigns to monitor the extent to which establishments comply with laws and ministerial decisions concerned with regulating the labor market, receiving and adjudicating labor complaints, and issuing appropriate decisions by dispute settlement committees in cases referred to them. The number of cases referred to the committees in October amounted to about 635 cases, and the total number of decisions issued amounted to 513 cases. In addition, the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking (NCCHT), headed by HE Minister of Labour and Chairman of the Committee Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri, plays important role in enhancing protection and support for victims of human trafficking, and joint cooperation between related parties.
According to the ILO report, 86% of workers confirmed that the reforms had a positive impact on their lives, according to a survey commissioned in May and June 2022, among 1,036 low-paid workers residing in shared accommodation sites, and the workers were of multiple nationalities working in various economic sectors. Another survey conducted by ILO stated that 98% of respondents received their wages on time.
The report also showed that more than 280,000 workers, or approximately 13 percent of the total workforce in the private sector, had their basic wages increased to the minimum, when the minimum wage law came into force in March 2021.
The ILO report pointed to the establishment of a national platform for reporting accidents, based on the pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030 and the National Health Strategy, where data collection, analysis and dissemination remain a top priority, and it is expected that the platform will be fully operational by mid-2023.
The report said that the Ministry of Labour and the ILO continued to implement campaigns throughout 2022 to raise awareness about the prevention of injuries among workers and employers, explaining in this regard that 19,978 work sites/facilities, and 3,406 housing units, were inspected by an inspection department at the Ministry of Labour.
Qatar has not said that it has reached the end of what is concerned with labor sector reforms, as the Ministry of Labour has always emphasized that the comprehensive reform process is a long-term process, and that changing the behavior of all companies requires more time, and all of this represents a strict message to all concerned that the country will never tolerate any offense
Hence, the State of Qatar affirms its commitment to cooperate constructively with its international partners and its critics at the same time, in order to further advance labor standards for all expatriate workers working on its territory, and that it will continue to consult with international experts, including the International Labour Organization (ILO) and trade unions, in addition to periodically consulting with non-governmental organizations to hear their recommendations in this regard. Therefore, Qatar took the initiative to open the door to dialogue and communication with all concerned with this issue on the widest scale. Doha has become a meeting place for them to visit and meet with whoever they want from the three parties to work (governments, employers, and workers) without restrictions and obstacles, to convey the truth to the world.
This was confirmed by the HE Minister of Labor Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri, when he met in Doha with Their Excellencies the ambassadors of Western countries and labor-sending countries. HE noted that the State of Qatar is one of the few countries that has opened its doors to all international organizations to see the pioneering experiences in improving labor legislation and its implementation mechanisms, stressing the continuation of the policy of openness to all international organizations interested in the labor sector.
In a related context, His Excellency also said , in a speech during a symposium organised by the Ministry of Labour under the theme "Labour Reforms in Qatar: Tripartite Cooperation and Coming together for a shared vision", on the sidelines of the 110th session of the International Labour Conference 2022, which was held in Geneva in June, that Qatar adopted a sustainable approach to developing and updating legislation and laws and improving the work environment, stressing that improvements to the work environment came within Qatar Vision 2030, while the organisation of the World Cup Qatar 2022 contributed to expediting the pace of Labour legislation.
This conference approved on June 10, during its 10th plenary session chaired by HE Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri, a historic decision made by the State of Qatar regarding the inclusion of a safe and healthy work environment within the framework of the International Labour Organization regarding fundamental principles and rights at work.
In a speech at the session, Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Ministry of Labour Mohammed Hassan Al Obaidli expressed Qatar's welcome for the adoption of this resolution, as one of the most important outcomes of the conference, and a historic event in the ILO's march.
Al Obaidli stressed the belief of Qatar that providing safe and healthy working conditions is essential to achieving appropriate work, benefiting the people and the economy, and will contribute to achieving sustainable and comprehensive economic growth. He thanked the representatives of the three parties (Governments, employers and workers) for the constructive consultations that made it possible to reach this historic decision, which was very welcome.
Qatar's achievements in the field of labor and its positive effects on its work environment will indeed serve as a motive for other countries to follow suit, and the State of Qatar has a firm belief in dialogue and communication as the best means to reaching effective solutions to challenges.
In view of its remarkable labor reforms, the State of Qatar, represented by HH the Minister of Labor, was elected Vice-President of the 110th session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva in June on behalf of government representatives; affirming the pivotal role that Qatar has carried out in the labor sector over the past years, including the legislative updates, achievements and various measures and initiatives adopted to reach a safe and healthy work environment.
This election represents a recognition of the efforts exerted by the State of Qatar in the labor sector, and reflects the confidence of Asia and the Pacific in Qatar to represent them in this important position. Qatar is also the Coordinator of the Group of Arab States in the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Within the framework of its international partnerships, the State of Qatar, represented by the Ministry of Labor, has close technical cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in various fields of the labor sector. This was highlighted during the meeting between HE Minister of Labor Dr. Ali bin Samikh Al Marri and HE ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo. The meeting reviewed the progress made over four years as part of the ongoing technical cooperation between the two sides, including the progress made through the program in terms of adopting new legislation and regulations related to the labor sector, in accordance with the recent ILO report. The two sides also discussed areas of joint and continuous work to enhance international cooperation, exchange experiences, and develop effective and comprehensive policies for the labor market that contribute to increasing the competitiveness of the knowledge-based economy.
Commenting on the occasion, HE the Minister of Labor underlined that the State of Qatar is proceeding at a steady pace with labor sector reforms in implementation of Qatar National Vision 2030, and in adherence to building a modern and dynamic labor market; noting that the State of Qatar has responded seriously to all constructive proposals with regard to improving and upgrading the work environment, in line with the main principles of its national vision, and in commitment to building a modern and dynamic labor market.
These meetings confirm that Qatar has nothing to fear or hide regarding labor issues, and shed light on the important legislative updates the mechanisms that have been implemented over the past years to improve the work environment, emphasizing Qatar's credibility and transparency, especially with regard to expatriate workers. The labor reforms implemented over the past ten years made Qatar at the forefront of countries adopting a sustainable approach to improving and upgrading the work environment, even after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
In the meantime, delegations of international labor organizations visited Qatar recently and closely examined the reality of the work environment in the State to convey the truth to world public opinion, in an emphasize of Qatar's openness and keenness on communication with relevant bodies.
Among the representatives of international trade unions who visited Qatar last October were HE General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow; HE Director of the International Labor Standards Department of ILO Corinne Varga; HE Regional Secretary at International Transport Workers Federation Bilal Malkawi, and HE the UNI Global Representative Eddy Stam. The visits affirmed the distinguished partnership between Qatar and the ILO and many international unions that contributed to upgrading the work environment and conveying the truth to the world public opinion.
The representatives of the international labor unions underlined that labor reforms in Qatar over the past ten years are in line with the global labor sector reforms strategy, noting that the numerous fundamental reforms adopted by Qatar over the past years have contributed significantly to improving the work environment.
HE ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo said that the State of Qatar has made great progress in the labor sector, including the abolition of the sponsorship system, the introduction of minimum wages, heat stress protection measures and others in a relatively short time; noting that the ILO issued in early November a report revealing the great shift that the Qatari labor market has witnessed during the past few years, which refutes all false allegations and slanders, as some have been trying to use the labor sector in negative campaigns against the State of Qatar since the announcement of its hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022. He stressed that the ILO's report, as a neutral party, constitutes the strongest response to the allegations against the labor sector in Qatar.
During the 346th session of the ILO’s Governing Body in Geneva, last week, the ILO Director-General renewed his praise for the labor reforms in the State of Qatar, and praised the positive results achieved, expressing his thanks to HE the Minister of Labor for his commitment to following up and implementing these reforms, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030.
He underlined the ILO's readiness to continue supporting the State of Qatar to achieve further improvements that benefit all workers.
Meanwhile, the FIFA President Gianni Infantino praised in a tweet the labor reforms in Qatar, and expressed his confidence that the International Labor Organization, Qatar and the FIFA can make further progress.
For his part, Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas pointed to the tangible reforms in the work environment in the State of Qatar, and said in a tweet that Qatar has made tangible progress on a number of issues, including labor reform.
Head of the European Parliament's sports group Marc Tarabella called the boycott of the World Cup in Qatar hypocritical, stressing that Qatar has made tremendous progress in terms of labor and human rights, driven in large part by the World Cup. He also described the report of the Guardian regarding the deaths of workers as "exaggerated."
Maria Arena, Head of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights said that many reforms have been adopted in Qatar since 2018 due to the efforts made by the National Human Rights Committee and the Minister of Labor Dr. Ali Al Marri. These reforms include abolishing the sponsorship system, and guaranteeing freedom of ease of movement of workers, minimum wages, safety and health mechanisms in the workplace, and many others.
The Office of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also issued a report on labor reforms in the State of Qatar, stating that the National Human Rights Committee in Qatar interacted regularly with the European Union, and considered the abolition of the sponsorship system a positive step in labor law reforms. The report also noted that the State of Qatar implemented the minimum wage system in 2021 and that Qatar is the only state in the Gulf region that allows workers to change jobs before the end of their contracts and without obtaining the consent of the employer.
Qatar's labor reforms were also praised by the International Confederation of Trade Unions, the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers, the European Trade Union Confederation, the Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers, as well as the ITUC Regional Organization for Asia and Pacific, the Federation of African Journalists and other.
Ahead the kickstart of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, slanders and falsehoods against Qatar will increase, but they will certainly not affect the approach to reform, and will not discourage Qatar from continuing to develop and modernize labor market laws and legislations, protect workers, and organize a historic and exceptional World Cup that will remain long in the memory of generations.
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