New Qatar labor law to end employee sponsorship system
MANILA, Philippines — A new labor law in Qatar will allow foreign workers, including Filipinos, to freely change jobs and leave the country without the approval of their employers, earning praise from the United Nations labor agency as “a momentous step forward in upholding the rights of migrant workers.”?
The International Labor Organization (ILO) said the reforms, which will enter into force by January, mark the end of an employee sponsorship system, common across the whole Middle East, known as kafala.?
The UN agency said the Gulf state has also endorsed a new law establishing a non-discriminatory minimum wage, a first for the region.?
“The ILO welcomes these reforms and recognizes the commitment of the State of Qatar to transforming its labor market. These steps will greatly support the rights of migrant workers, while contributing to a more efficient and productive economy,” ILO chief Guy Ryder said after the Council of Ministers unanimously endorsed the draft laws on Wednesday.?
Under the new laws, workers will be able to change jobs following an initial probationary period. Previously, they required a no-objection certificate from their employers.?
The removal of exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel, means that they also will be free to leave Qatar, whether temporarily or permanently, without the permission of their employers.
The non-discriminatory minimum wage will apply to all nationalities and all sectors of the labor market. The level will be set later this year.?
The ILO has been working with Qatari authorities since November 2017 through a three-year technical cooperation program. An ILO Project Office there, established in April 2018, has been supporting the labor reform agenda.?
“Qatar is changing. The new tranche of laws will bring an end to kafala and put in place a modern industrial relations system,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, which supports the partnership.?
“We recognize that a new evidence-based minimum wage rate will ensure dignity for migrant workers. We urge the government to announce this as quickly as possible,” she said.