living conditions in Qatar

Qatar is a small nation bordered predominantly by Saudi Arabia. The nation has the highest GDP production in the Arab speaking world. Because of this, living standards are higher than many other Middle Eastern nations. Yet, Qatar is not without its issues surrounding living conditions despite its perceived excessive wealth.

10 Things to Know About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Qatar has a forced labor problem. Migrant workers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s population. Under a 2009 sponsorship law, workers have to hand over their passports to their employers. Workers often hesitate to complain or report abuses because this makes them vulnerable to the whims of their employers. Workers pay thousands to recruiters and often arrive to find that they are being paid less than promised, but they can’t leave because they are under contract and their employers have their passports.
  2. Qatar has a unique single-payer public health care system and a new national health strategy that seeks to improve outcomes for those living in Qatar. Qatar has one of the most effective healthcare systems in the Middle East. It ranks 13 in the world’s best healthcare systems and is number one in the Middle East.
  3. Men outnumber women four to one. There are only 700,000 women in Qatar, a country of 2.5 million people. This is due to the massive influx of migrant workers in the country, which are mostly men trying to provide for their families.
  4. Women in Qatar are twice as likely to pursue higher education than men. Men often decide to go straight into work after high school. Although women graduate at twice the rate of men, they only occupy 31 percent of the workforce.
  5. Women’s rights are limited in Qatar. The nation is a religious and conservative Muslim country, subscribing to Sharia law. It is still a taboo for women to fraternize with men. Women in Qatar cannot marry without the consent of a male family member. While men have uninhibited access to divorce, a woman can only divorce a man on narrow grounds. A woman cannot divorce her husband in Qatar if she is beaten or raped by her husband because domestic abuse and marital rape are not illegal under Qatari law.
  6. Qatar has the first Refugee Asylum Law in the Gulf. Qatar recently passed a law allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country. In an attempt to improve its public image for the upcoming world cup, Qatar has abolished exit visas for migrant workers. This may be a good first step in resolving the countries problem with forced labor. The law offers freedom of religion and freedom of movement for refugees as well as giving them access to an education while in Qatar.
  7. It is believed that upwards of at least 12,000 workers have died in the construction of World Cup stadium. This is due to workers being forced to build outside during summer in a country where temperatures usually can reach up to 50C (122F) degrees. There is a law banning work outside from June to August from 11:30- 3:00, but this has done little to decrease the work-related deaths. The most support for workers has come not from the Qatari Government, but from the Human Rights Watch, which has been trying to get the country to provide better conditions for workers.
  8. Pregnancy can be a crime. Sex outside of wedlock is illegal in Qatar, and extramarital affairs are punishable by stoning to death. Doctors are even required by law to refer to any pregnant women who cannot prove they are married to the authorities.
  9. Half of Qatar’s fresh water comes from a desalination process, and chemicals are added to the water to keep it from corroding the pipes. Unfortunately, the water often lacks basic minerals and contains harmful bacteria and is often not potable. This water is mostly good for use in agriculture. Qatar has the highest domestic water consumption in the world. The average household in Qatar uses 430 liters of water a day. Crops are watered with water from aquifers, which are being used up faster than they can be replenished.
  10. Qatar has a significant expat population. People from many different nationalities flock to Qatar for a number of reasons, including job opportunities and fewer tax restrictions. Those arriving from nearby nations experience less of a culture shock than those arriving from Western Europe although English is still the second highest spoken language in the region. Qatar is actively promoting the influx of expats through reduced visa restrictions.

Life in Qatar is vastly different and often times more difficult than that of the Western World. Human rights abuses still occur every day. Women, by international standards, are struggling to find a prominent socio-economic role. Even still, Qatar has a few unique features, including its single-payer healthcare system, that separate it positively from other nations. There is clearly more work to be done in regards to living conditions in Qatar.

Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Work and Travel USA
The Work and Travel USA program is a United States’ government program that offers foreign students an opportunity to work and travel across the country through the provision of a J1 work visa. The program allows over 100,000 students to come to the U.S. into a variety of cities and towns across the country each summer.

Advantages of Work and Travel USA

Prior to moving to the U.S. for the summer, students find an employment opportunity in the U.S. through their respective work and travel agencies. Upon arrival, four months of work are defined and nearly a month’s time of travel and leisure for each student, depending on their savings throughout the summer. The program offers foreign students the unique opportunity to earn thousands of U.S. dollars, experience American life and culture through personal interaction and work experience as well as the privilege of repatriating thousands of dollars back into their respective country’s currency when they inevitably return home. Unless they decide not to return home.

Middle Classes of US and Russia

According to the Pew Research Foundation, approximately half of the U.S. population that totals to around 320 million citizens reside in middle-class households. Despite a strong representation of middle-class American citizens, financial gains for middle-income Americans during this period were modest compared with those of higher-income households, causing the income disparity between the two groups to grow.

Contrary to the United States, Russia’s middle class has shrunken to the point of nonrecognition. In developed countries, the middle class is an essential class, the guarantor of social and political stability, legislator of norms of socio-economic and cultural behavior. Its representatives are characterized by independence and critical thinking that facilitate the development of civil society and the efficiency of state management. In Russia’s developing nation, the middle class is parceled into ultra-rich oligarchs that, in fact, represent the elite and the derelict poor on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Motivations for Work and Travel Program

Russian student candidates for the Work and Travel USA program fall somewhere in the middle. They are aged from 18 to 28 years, have a proficiency in English, belong to a travel agency with a work arrangement, they have obtained all legal documents to work in the U.S. for three to four months and have successfully completed at least one semester at their home university.

The motivations for applying to the Work and Travel USA program appear obvious, but American laborers and academics seldom realize the hidden incentives behind a J1 visa and its political power. On average, candidates for the Work and Travel USA program initially put up over $1,200 in program fees and paperwork in order to be afforded a J1 visa and to work in the United States. The granting of this visa grants temporary freedom to a Russian student that he or she is seldom likely to experience while living, studying and working in Russia.

Matters of poor higher education standards and poverty in the form of household income, per capita GDP, social exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation and gender and geographic/geopolitical disenfranchisement are the primary motivations for a select few Russian J1 visa holders to defy the Work and Travel USA agreement and ultimately overstay their visas in pursuit of residency, a green card and, ultimately, American citizenship.

Misuse of Work and Travel USA

The J1 visas awarded to students through the Work and Travel USA program have become a solution to middle-class poverty students in Russia for escaping the country. Rather than committing to a broken system of higher education or working tirelessly in a blue-collar trade, many young Russians are overstaying their visas while in the U.S. in preparation for a new life. Due to matters of conflicted interest, Russian travel agencies and the U.S. government do not disclose precisely how many J1 visa holders overstay their visitor status.

The issue of overstayed J1 students obviously concerns the internal environment of Russia and its connection to poverty. Young Russian citizens know better than to assume the state of affairs in Russia will improve to the point where poverty will be alleviated nationwide. Thus, students fortunate enough to make the cut and receive the J1 visa often pursue the Work and Travel USA program with nefarious and permanent intent.

There are real solutions to solve this suboptimal state for young Russians in the middle class. The establishment of lobbyist groups to improve higher education standards will begin to set positive trends in motion. There is however the persisting issue of Russians wanting to visit the USA with the intent of returning home. Programs and measures taken must work to encourage all Russian J1 holders to return home without disadvantaging those who seek the program with integrity.

Conversely, the issue of overstaying can be reframed entirely. Perhaps the U.S. can begin to set up incubator programs for foreign students who overstay their visa in order to afford them the necessary legal resources so they may make legitimate claims to the residence. If Russia refuses to enact policy that addresses its middle-class poverty issue, perhaps it is time for the United States to step up and show how far legislation can go to improve the lives of law-abiding people.

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Pixabay

Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Seven Facts About Migrant Children in China
The world’s largest migration, known as the ‘floating population,’ has not only affected China’s economic reform, but has shaped millions of children. In 2017, a
report stated that China has an “estimated 287 million rural migrant workers” to look for greater job opportunities. UNICEF has approximated that nearly 100 million children have been affected by this change, and many put in harm. Here are seven facts about migrant children in China.

7 Facts About Migrant Children in China

  1. According to the journal, “Chinese Education and Society,” 35.81 million children of those affected by the migration migrate to the city with their parents, while around 70 million were left behind in their rural hometowns.
  2. Migrant children who move to the cities often lack the same access to social services as other children such as: education, healthcare and support. This lack occurs due to the Hukou system, a system that registers one in the hometown that he or she was born, and prohibits those outside of the city to receive the same benefits as their urban-hukou-holding counterparts.
  3. Many children are left behind in the countryside and often have little to no family support; in fact, most are raised by their grandparents and have little contact with their parents. According to a 2013 survey in Shandong, “75 percent of [left-behind children’s] parents visited home just once a year during the Spring Festival.”
  4. There are around 36 million minors who will join the next generation of migrant workers. Many included in the new generation of migrant laborers — the children of current migrant workers — have a strong desire to assimilate to the city. However, many of their urban-hukou-holding counterparts do not view these populations as “one of them.”
  5. A study conducted in 2013 showed that of 300 Beijing public and migrant schools compared to that of rural schools in Shaanxi, rural schools had twice the amount of qualified teachers than migrant schools in Beijing.
  6. The Chinese government recognized that migration brought numerous negative consequences to many migrant children. Although the State Council passed the State Council’s Decision on Reforming and Developing Elementary Education, the State Council stated, “We should pay more attention to resolve the problems of migrant children to have compulsory education…We should adopt various ways to resolve the problems and protect migrant children’s right to have compulsory education in laws.”
  7. Numerous NGOs have worked with the government to improve conditions for migrant children. For example, UNICEF has began working on a pilot project targeted at improving migrant children’s access to education and healthcare in the city.

Room to Grow

These facts about migrant children in China represent migration’s profound impact on a country and its people. Although China has made leaps and strides to recognize the issue, there is still work to be done to ensure that the next generation receive the same benefits and opportunities as any other child.  

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Qatar

Qatar is a nation of extreme economic stratification between rich and poor. An oil rich gulf state, Qatar’s economy is booming, with its GDP reaching a soaring $329.2 billion in 2016 – making Qatar the wealthiest Arab state. Despite this title, there are still unfortunately a large number of people living in poverty here. In this climate of extreme inequality, the question of how to help people in Qatar remains of vital importance.

This economic growth is coupled with a massive population spike, due to the influx of migrant workers needed to sustain the economic growth of the country. Migrant workers are estimated to comprise about 90 percent of the Qatari population, with nearly 60 percent living in what the Qatari monarchy officially calls “labour camps.”

This influx of migrant workers has been further exacerbated by the construction for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have long condemned the working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Under the kafala labor sponsorship system, workers are dependent on their employers for their visas, living accommodation and even permission to enter or exit the country. Amnesty International has deemed labor conditions as “squalid and cramped,” while the International Labor Organization is launching investigations into the labor camps and systems surrounding the construction of World Cup infrastructure.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. As an official ally of the U.S., diplomats from the U.S. have unique access to the small faction of the Qatari population that maintains control over the political and economic realities that the poor face. It is crucial that the U.S. uses its influence to advocate for the outrageous treatment of migrant workers, on whose backs the immense wealth and economic growth of Qatar is built.

USAID has already begun to answer the question of how to help people in Qatar, and are still working to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Cooperation to Enhance Global Food Security, signed in 2011. Dr. Rajiv Shah, then the administrator of USAID, signed the MOU, saying, “Both the United States and Qatar see food security as a development issue that must be addressed comprehensively and creatively.”

It is critical to the health and well-being of the impoverished Qatari workers that these goals be pursued. Moreover, resources must continue to flow to organizations such as USAID, which work to pressure the Qatari monarchy to provide a social safety net and adequate human rights for its subjects.

Jeffery Harrell
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Money Transfers
One in seven people worldwide gets labeled as a migrant worker. Migrant workers are individuals who move from their home country to a different one for work purposes. These workers often face a difficulty when it comes to sending money home to their families. They often have to take time-consuming or costly routes to accomplish this. With the help of mobile money transfers, migrant workers now have an easy and cost-efficient way to transfer their earnings.

Limited Storage Options

Before mobile transfers, workers had limited options on how to send their money home. They could take the money themselves, but this required them to take large amounts of time off work and spend money on transportation. Another method used was to send money home with a third-party. However, if there is no nearby agency, workers might end up relying on an unregulated corporation. Using these services can be costly and risky. Even worse is that companies can charge a high fee depending on the amount getting transferred.

Bank accounts are also unsuitable for migrant workers. Most migrant workers are employed in rural farm areas while banks operate in more populated places like cities or towns. Banks can also charge high fees that low-income workers cannot pay. In fact, 42 percent of the worlds farmers are unbanked.

Mobile money transfers provide an easy and quick way to send money home at a cheaper rate than previous systems. Money transfers can be done any time of the day and take only seconds. Moreover, unlike banking apps, they are not limited to smartphones and can be done on any mobile device.

Xpress Money & TerraPay

Xpress Money is one money transferring company who recently partnered with TerraPay, a mobile payment switch. Originally used to send money directly through 200,000 agent locations in 165 different countries, Xpress now looks to expand with mobile transfers. TerraPay connects money transfer services with banks, payment card issuers and mobile wallet systems through its technological services. These services enable migrant workers across the world to send money home instantly.

By providing poor migrant workers with a safe, cheap and easy way to manage their money, they are getting introduced into the formal financial sector. Now, these migrants can begin to have savings and dictate where they wish to spend their money. Having control over their earnings can give these workers the capability and means to rise out of poverty.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nauru
Located 4,000 km from Sydney, Australia is the smallest island in the world, expanding out 21 square kilometers — this is Nauru. What was once the wealthiest nation on the planet is now in shambles. The country thrived on agriculture and phosphate mining; however, now that all of the phosphate resources were stripped from the island, what remains is a wasteland.

Because of the staggering descent into poverty in Nauru, which is desperate for money, the nation has traded in the phosphate business for migrants. In 2001, Nauru entered into an agreement with Australia in which Nauru would hold refugees trying to enter Australia in return for foreign aid.

How did the wealthiest nation become desperate for foreign aid? After seizing independence from Britain in 1968, the nation’s inhabitants grew extremely wealthy from exporting phosphate. On top of that, the government revoked taxes and gave its inhabitants monthly stipends.

This way of governing provided the people with no incentive to find jobs, start businesses or provide for the economy. The money that was propagated eroded in corruption and poorly executed distribution of investments. By 1980, all the phosphate was basically depleted from the island. Poverty in Nauru increased from there. Now, 80 percent of the island is covered in limestone pinnacles, making it uninhabitable and utterly useless.

Mining in Nauru not only destroyed the land, but also the coastal waters as it has been contaminated due to phosphate runoff. Not only is there poverty in Nauru, but also a serious health crisis. A nation that had once cultivated the land for fresh crops and fished, is now home to some of the most obese and sick people.

In 2007, the World Health Organization Report recounted 94.5 percent of Nauru’s inhabitants as being overweight and 71.7 as being obese. The life expectancy in Nauru is around 50, and Type II diabetes is more prevalent there than in any other place in the world. Most of the population now lives off of prefabricated food shipped from Australia.

Nauru has become dependent on foreign aid mainly from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. A Sydney University geosciences professor by the name of John Connell expressed his belief that the only long-run solution to this crisis is a complete relocation of Nauru’s inhabitants.

However, as of now, the nation is getting some of its income from selling passports to foreign nationals and taking in refugees other countries refuse. In hopes to help with the poverty in Nauru, in 2001, Australia set up the Nauru detention center and provided many of the nation’s inhabitants with jobs. In 2012, Australia set up a second facility, which sparked hope in hearts of the inhabitants — a hope for a better future.

Now that asylums are in high demand due to the excessive numbers of refugees, Nauru’s facilities have been in full swing; however, poverty in Nauru is still very much prevalent. Although it may seem like a dead end, it appears that Australia still insists on using Nauru’s detention center because it is refusing to admit more refugees. This nation’s unusual and destructive past has steered Nauru into an impasse, but the future of the small island still remains unclear.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar

The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics disclosed on June 6, 2016 that 1.4 million people, nearly 60 percent of Qatar’s population, live in what the Qatari government officially labels as “labor camps.”

Migrants from poorer countries have moved to Qatar in recent years to develop its infrastructure for tourism projects, including preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

However, migrant workers continue to live a life of poverty in Qatar, with many human rights groups like Amnesty International condemning Qatar for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its very large migrant workforce.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers are also not paid for several months at a time, which puts significant emotional and financial pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts.

Recently, 13 people died in a fire that broke out in a labor camp for migrants working on a waterfront tourism project in southwest Qatar. The fire highlights how Qatar has treated migrant workers by providing poor living conditions for them.

The government responded to criticism by building new housing complexes for workers, including a city south of Doha. This new city, known as “Labour City,” will include cinemas, shops and a cricket stadium for migrant workers.

Outside of the government, various organizations have also assisted migrant workers to overcome their life of poverty in Qatar. One such organization is Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

On June 8, ROTA launched its Ramadan Project 2016, bringing together over 100 local volunteers to pack and distribute bulk groceries to more than 200 families in need across Qatar.

ROTA volunteers packaged food parcels containing items such as flour, cooking oil, milk powder and lentils that were later distributed before the start of Ramadan. The program also provided beneficiary families with shopping vouchers to purchase other products.

ROTA volunteers, numbering 300, partook in several community service activities set to take place over the month, including the installation of computer labs for migrants working on construction projects.

Despite living a life of poverty in Qatar, migrant workers are slowly overcoming hardships through additional assistance by the government and various organizations.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Flickr