Around two million migrant workers live and toil in the emirate of Qatar on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. They make up around 95 percent of the country’s entire workforce – and are an important factor in the preparations for the soccer World Cup that Qatar will host in 2022.
Many of the migrants build or maintain stadiums, work in hotels, as cleaners or drivers – under often precarious conditions.
Now Qatar has raised the minimum wage for all full-time domestic and foreign workers. As of today, employees receive the equivalent of at least around 230 euros a month. That is around 9.58 euros a day for the six-day week that is common in many areas. Employers are also obliged to pay the equivalent of 70 to 115 euros for food and living space or to provide their employees with both.
So far, the minimum wage was 750 rials, around 172 euros, a month. According to the International Labor Organization, around 400,000 workers will be affected by the increase.
Qatar announced the move months ago. The human rights organization Amnesty International had already criticized the level of the minimum wage as completely inadequate and expressed doubts that people could use it to cover their living costs.
The rich Gulf state argues that the minimum wage is significantly higher than in the countries from which the majority of migrant workers come. The workers come mainly from Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
Qatar claims to be the first country in the region to introduce a minimum wage for everyone. The Gulf state hopes that the reforms will make the country attractive to investors.
Workers starve because of late wage payments
In August 2020, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the desolate conditions in the emirate in terms of labor law. “Ten years after Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup, migrant workers are still struggling with late, non-existent and reduced wages,” it says. “We heard of workers starving because of late wage payments.”
Qatar is repeatedly criticized for the human rights situation in the country. The monarchy therefore announced various reforms on the labor market last year. Since then, foreign workers have been allowed to leave the country or change jobs without the consent of their employer.
Previously, the so-called Kafala system had ensured that migrant workers in Qatar were treated like slaves. The employees were not allowed to leave the country or work for another company without the permission of the employer. They were not allowed to borrow money in the bank or obtain a driver’s license without his placet.