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Home News & Reports Qatar to implement wage protection system; doesnt fully address workers needs

Qatar to implement wage protection system; doesnt fully address


workers needs
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The WPS in isolation will do little to improve conditions of low-income migrant workers in the
country. Qatar's failure to reform the oppressive sponsorship system shows reluctance to delve
deeper into its labor market problems.
Feb 26 2015

Qatar approved amendments to the labour law on 18 Feb; key among which is the introduction of the
Wage Protection System. The system, which has already been implemented in Saudi Arabia and UAE,
will make it mandatory for companies to pay their employees through bank transfer.
Companies will be given six months to implement this, failing which, violators would be liable for jail
time up of one month and fines of up to QR6000.
No more details are currently available.
In May 2014 Qatar announced wide-ranging reforms to kafala and labor laws, but has since made
conflicting statements at various international and regional forums, much to the frustration of rights
activists, recruitment agencies, and migrants.
Pressure on Qatar mounted in December 2010, following its successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Four years later, and one world cup away from D-day, Qatar still seems reluctant to commit to improve
the lives of the low-income migrant workers building its infrastructure and dreams.
The Kafala system and poor labor protections facilitate the rampant abuse and exploitation of these
workers, who remain voiceless and invisible.
One of the biggest problems facing workers is non-payment or delayed payment of wages, resulting in
depleted standard of living for both the workers in Qatar and their families at home.
These are solutions tailored by consultants far removed from the reality. The needs of workers has not
been taken into account.
Criticism of WPS
Labor rights activists feels the WPS is a misinformed, even if outwardly well-intentioned, response to the
problem
Speaking to Migrant-Rights.org, one activist said the problem with wages involves more than nonpayment, but includes wrong computation, lack of overtime pay, and unfair deductions. . When the

worker only receives a bank transfer, without a pay slip, he cant contest it then and there. The first step
should have been a minimum wage commitment.
He adds, These are solutions tailored by consultants far removed from the reality. The needs of
workers has not been taken into accounttheir education level and cultural context for instance. Of course,
this provide another opportunity for consultants to make money by conducting workshops.
The WPS for now is the only available salve in the GCCs severely malfunctioning labor market, and
Qatar will have to ensure careful implementation to mitigate at least some of the problems migrant
workers face in relation to salaries. It has two case studies close to home to study and improve upon.
Regional Models
The UAE was the first to announce the WPS in 2009. Implementation was rolled out in phases based on
the size of the companies.
Companies could enter into a contract as WPS agents with any bank, bureau de change or financial
institution approved and authorized by the Central Bank of the UAE.
Saudi began work on its WPS in 2013. As of November 2014, it completed implementation of three
phases (workforces of over 3000, 2000 and 1000), and entered the fourth stage covering companies with
workforces of over 500.
Public transportation continues to be scarce, and the workers are unwelcome in the glitzier parts of the
Doha, further restricting workers access to their money.
Hurdles to implementation
Saudi, unlike the UAE, restricts WPS to banks alone, placing heavy demands on its banking system.
Following Saudi Arabian Monetary Agencys (SAMA) demand that pressure be eased on the Kingdoms
banks, it delayed the fourth phase from July to November 2014.
A majority of companies (between 65% to 90% based on workforce size) had complied in both Saudi and
UAE. For instance, in Saudi, in the first phase (over 3000 workforce), a total of 119 companies fulfilled
conditions out of 184 companies, while 48 companies pledged to submit their updated data soon after the
deadline and 17 had services halted by the ministry for failure to comply with the new system.
In the second phase, (over 2000 workforce) 81 companies fulfilled the ministrys demands, 13 were
penalized for failure to comply, and 17 companies resumed services after complying past the deadline.
Punitive measures in both UAE and Saudi include suspension of ministerial services and suspension of
new work permits.
Challenges and Opportunities for Qatar
Though over 90% of Qatars workforce is foreign, its total population is much smaller than the UAE or
Saudi. Foreigners account for 87% of the nearly 10 million residents in the UAE; and over a third of the
nearly 30 million in Saudi. This, coupled with Qatars geo-advantage its economic activities are centred
around Doha and a few oil and gas townships- should enable quick implementation and wide coverage
of WPS.
Qatar must also consider workers ability to fully benefit from the new system by improving access to
banking infrastructure. Currently, there are no ATMs in areas where low-income migrants are housed.
Public transportation continues to be scarce, and the workers are unwelcome in the glitzier parts of the

Doha, further restricting workers access to their money.


While Qatar has not made the actual system public yet, the wording of the announcement indicates it will
similarly be restricted to bank transfers, putting to test the preparedness of the banks.
However, reports in a local daily indicate that exchange houses are preparing to be part of the WPS
network, which would ensure much deeper reach. The article highlights scope for misuse of this system
too.
the new rule doesnt seem to bother some illegal workers as they think their original sponsors
could open salary accounts for them with financial institutions, as required by the law, and
transfer their wages.
And they could return their employers the cash immediately after, said a free visa worker. This is
happening in the case of expatriates whose salaries are low and they want to show bigger salary
transfers to be eligible to sponsor their families.
Their sponsors transfer extra sums as part of their salary and that sum is returned to them. A
free visa is a work visa for sale on which a foreign worker arrives after buying it and takes up
work elsewhere illegally. In most cases, as per rule, a workers sponsorship is officially transferred
from free visa to a regular visa after a year. As for runaway workers, they can be paid wages by
their illegal employers in cash.
Though the WPS may prove one step in the right direction, even if perfectly implemented it remains only
a partial resolution to the systematic exploitation of migrant workers. For the WPS to have an enduring
impact on the condition of migrant workers, Qatar must live up to its commitments to reform.
Posted In GCC, News & Events, Qatar, Sponsorship, Working conditions
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