A new dawn for migrant workers in Qatar

New laws adopted today by the State of Qatar are a game changer in the protection of workers’ rights.

Migrant workers are now free to leave their jobs and seek alternative employment following a notice period. This new law brings to an end the undue control that employers have had over workers’ lives.

In addition, the establishment of the first minimum wage in the Gulf States is a historic milestone.

400,000 migrant workers will have a 33 percent increase in their wages. The minimum wage of QAR 1800 (USD 494) – including food and accommodation – will cover all workers, including domestic workers.

“Qatar has regularised its industrial relations system and dismantled the systematic power imbalance between workers and employers. These changes are a break with the past and offer a future for migrant workers in Qatar underpinned by laws which respect workers, along with grievance and remedy systems,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

The minimum wage for migrant workers, including domestic workers, has three levels depending on employee contributions:

  • QAR 1000 with food and decent accommodation provided by the employer;
  • QAR 1500 with decent accommodation provided by the employer but without food;
  • QAR 1800 without accommodation or food provided by the employer.

“The first non-discriminatory minimum wage in the Gulf States, based on cost-of-living evidence, will see twenty percent of migrant workers in Qatar receive an increase in their wages. The new minimum wage will be applied regardless of the amount stated in a worker’s employment contract.

Agriculture workers, cleaners, domestic workers and construction workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in Qatar who will see an increase in their monthly pay, bringing an end to the race-based system of wages that is prevalent across the region. Other Gulf countries should follow Qatar’s lead in establishing minimum wages and in regularising their systems, including the dismantling of kafala,” said Sharan Burrow.

Employers have six months to comply with the new regulations, with sanctions imposed by the government, including suspending the operations of the company and suspending individual operations for those employing domestic workers.

These changes are the culmination of a programme of work between the government of Qatar, the International Labour Organization and the ITUC.

In addition, Qatar has established a Minimum Wage Commission that will periodically review the minimum wage rate, which is based on evidence of the cost of living and takes into account the responsibilities of migrant workers to their families at home.

See ILO Statement.