Homelessness in QatarThough Qatar may be known for its gleaming skyline and booming business hub, there is notable income inequality that leads to downstream consequences, such as an explosion of homelessness within the nation. While perhaps the country evokes images of riches and wealth, the reality is not so for all those living and working within the country. Here are six facts about homelessness in Qatar that warrant everyone’s attention.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Qatar

  1. As a result of the economic boom during the last 40 years in this small nation in the Middle East, Qatar has gone on a massive building spree. To maintain this rapid pace of building, the country has relied primarily on migrant immigrants to help construct the city. These migrant workers have been subjected to repulsive conditions. Worse yet, the Qatari government could historically do more when it comes to basic human needs for these vulnerable, migrant workers.
  2. Many migrant workers, unable to afford accommodation, sleep at the construction sites in which they work. The companies that sponsor these migrant workers for construction projects in the city do not provide sufficient wages. Furthermore, these same employers do not provide any type of housing to support thousands of workers. Therefore, many migrant workers end up sleeping outside.
  3. An Amnesty International report on the construction of the future FIFA World Cup site in Qatar looked into the mistreatment of these migrant workers. Most notably, the report focused on migrant workers’ unfair treatment concerning housing securement. The report identified multiple individuals who were priced out of their affordable rental housing, due to their company delaying salary payments.
  4. Those who are homeless in Qatar face consequences from all angles of society. The government often views these workers as expendable — thrown into subjugated parts of society and subject to threats from criminals and police alike. These actors take advantage of the migrant workers already poor situation. Without proper living conditions, living on the streets can be quite difficult, especially if one lacks the required documentation and visas.
  5. The government of Qatar has been investing in improving labor conditions for workers. In addition, the government is addressing homelessness in Qatar, more broadly. Encampments like “Labour City,” funded by the State of Qatar’s private engineering office, is an area designed to house over 100,000 migrant workers. The new residences are significant improvements from previous accommodations. Some features of these new residences including access to the internet, green spaces and larger living areas — a far cry from a life on the streets.
  6. Private firms have also been investing in migrant laborers’ living conditions. Barwa Al Baraha, a subsidiary of a private property management business in Qatar, has built residences that can house up to 53,000 people in significantly improved living conditions.

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

While the nation of Qatar has experienced economic success in recent decades, there is no guarantee that the fruits of this success will be distributed equitably. In contrast, some marginalized and vulnerable populations (e.g., migrant workers) within Qatari society are at a higher risk of exploitation, simply due to their life circumstances. Through a concerted effort from both public and private initiatives, labor and living conditions for migrant workers are improving in Qatar and these efforts must continue.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia

How Migrant Workers Have Been Impacted By COVID-19Over the past several months, there have been many media stories about how the ongoing pandemic has impacted the American economy, as well as many others around the world. Any reader is likely aware of how harmful the crisis has been to many working- and middle-class people in America. One group that has not received as much attention, however, are migrant workers. Not only have migrant workers been made more vulnerable than usual in the current climate, but their struggles have also intersected with poverty on a global scale.

Migrant Workers During COVID-19

What makes this situation an international crisis rather than a solely American one is remittances. Many migrant workers travel from developing nations to more wealthy ones, where they can earn more money or simply find jobs in order to support their families. These workers send part of their paycheck back home to their loved ones, many of whom live in extreme poverty. Last year alone, migrant workers across the planet sent home $554 billion. This is over three times the amount of international development aid given by wealthy nations. Importantly, remittances frequently go toward crucial essentials, like food, education and medicine.

Experts predict that COVID-19 will be one of the factors that lead to the first global increase in poverty in over 20 years. Migrant workers were already living in difficult conditions prior to the outbreak, and recent events have worsened their circumstances. Many put themselves in danger in order to travel abroad to provide for their families. Furthermore, all of the migrants in the U.S. without Social Security Numbers were ineligible for the stimulus checks sent out in early 2020. When migrant workers are unable to support their relatives back home, their families — who in many cases had to pool resources to “invest” in a family member traveling abroad — are plunged even further into poverty.

A Potential Solution

However, state legislators have the opportunity to provide leadership on how to properly support migrant workers in the U.S. during this time. In April, Massachusetts Democrats put forward Bill H.4726, or “An Act To Provide Equal Stimulus Checks to Immigrant Taxpayers” in the Massachusetts state legislature. The bill would provide financial stimulus support to undocumented taxpaying Americans. Though not all migrant workers are undocumented, this bill would serve as a policy response to the crisis that includes undocumented workers who pay taxes. 

Legislation like this, paired with an extended and expanded financial stimulus plan, would help to combat poverty at home and around the globe. No matter what someone’s immigration status is, they should be able to rest knowing that they and their families, wherever they may be, will not get sick or go hungry. Massachusetts still needs to vote on this bill, but its very existence shows that the United States is not powerless in this situation.

The Role of the US

The United States has the ability to help impoverished people in developing nations, who are suffering in numerous ways from the COVID-19 crisis. U.S. support does not just have to come in the form of international aid, as our domestic affairs impact the rest of the world. By making sure that migrant workers are included in coronavirus relief efforts, the U.S. would help reduce poverty among migrant workers and their families.

– Brendan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Domestic Workers
In high-income countries, many households rely on dual-income earnings, creating a market hungry for domestic labor to help with childcare and housekeeping. To fill these roles affordably, families rely on the low wage labor of women from developing countries. Many of these domestic workers come from the Philippines and emigrate to wealthier countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. A significant portion finds work in the United States as well, making up 15% of American domestic workers. This labor export has become extremely vital to the Philippine economy, accounting for about 9% of the country’s total GNP. Although this model has remedied economic hardships for many Filipino families, the human sacrifices of this work are undeniable. Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers must part with their children, endure grueling professional demands and become vulnerable to exploitation in their host countries.

Demand for Migrant Labor

While Filipino men tend to migrate for jobs in construction and transportation, women often work as caretakers and domestics. On average, the remittances of male migrants are double those of female migrants, who frequently fill lower-paying positions. However, working abroad is an opportunity accessible mostly to Filipinos with some preexisting class privilege. Some of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers leave behind high-level jobs in their native country, their skills and education making them more attractive to foreign employers. Even so, the wages at more menial jobs abroad dwarf the women’s earning potential at home.

Benefits to the Philippines

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports that 1.2 million migrants work abroad each year and sent home $27 billion in remittances in 2014. This inflow of remittances is the third highest in the world, only ranking below India and China. When the capital from these remittances enters the national economy, families often invest in natural disaster relief, education and real estate. Exporting labor has also helped narrow the wealth gap, growing a more prosperous middle class. Nationalist rhetoric celebrates foreign labor and individuals who work abroad are praised as “new heroes.” The Philippine government even presents awards like the Model OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) Family of the Year Award to honor the sacrifices of specially dedicated migrant workers.

Personal Sacrifices and Children Left Behind

Despite the earning potential and social honor of working abroad, there is often a heavy emotional cost. Ironically, many Filipino women who leave home to provide childcare in the developed world must leave their own children behind. In the words of Manuela Peña, chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, “It is quite easy to become a successful overseas Filipino worker in terms of economic achievement, but we found out it is difficult to maintain family relations and turn (the life of a migrant worker) into success.”

Migrants frequently leave children with family members and childcare workers who do not have the means to work abroad. For workers who are undocumented in their host countries, shuffling back to the Philippines for regular visits is impossible and family separation can last for years. After returning for retirement, many workers spend their retirement caring for children of relatives who work abroad, so that the next generation of mothers and fathers might provide for their families through remittances.

Exploitation and Fair Treatment

Many of the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to scams and exploitation. Recruiters can charge exorbitant fees, employers can provide poor working conditions and workers can receive unfair payment. The Philippine government has made some infrastructural and policy changes to grapple with these issues. Protections require that employers use standardized employment contracts, cap recruitment fees at reasonable rates and ban deployment to countries with records of poor migrant treatment. In 2012, the Philippines negotiated a groundbreaking $400 monthly minimum wage for Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

NGOs like Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc. help migrants maximize their savings through entrepreneurship, providing microloans and financial literacy education. This model of social entrepreneurship stimulates local economies, promotes community development and provides a lucrative alternative to migration.

The loans that the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation distributes range from ₱3000 to ₱1 million. Borrowers have used the loans to expand their small businesses by employing additional staff, investing in newer machinery and buying vehicles. As of the 2017 annual report, the organization held multiple training events in Davao City and Butuan City, educating participants on family rights, entrepreneurship and business management.

In Conclusion

The Philippines’ labor export model has done much to lift families to comfortable middle-class lives. Many Filipinos now have greater access to capital and education because of the remittances that family members send. However, sacrifice and family separation remain as harsh byproducts. Fortunately, the government has put regulations in place to improve fairness and quality of life for the Philippines’ migrant domestic workers.

– Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the United Arab Emirates
When Americans think of the United Arab Emirates, they may often think of cities like Dubai consisting of staggering skyscrapers, extravagant lifestyles and unimaginable wealth. Americans may not always see the underlying struggles that many Emirates deal with on a day-to-day basis. Aspects of poverty include a dominating wealth gap, which exists at the expense of migrant workers, water insecurity and issues regarding food supply. This article will address each of these facets of poverty in the United Arab Emirates while also discussing the efforts to help people suffering today.

Wealth Inequality and Migrant Workers

According to the World Inequality Database, the top 1% of Emiratis constitute about 22.8% of total income in the UAE, while the bottom 50% of Emiratis make up only 5.8%. As for wealth, the top 1% of individuals in the UAE hold over 50% of the entire country’s wealth.

The UAE is indeed a rich nation, yet few understand the makeup of this wealth. The upper echelons of Emirati society hold the majority of this wealth and income, which leaves far more individuals struggling for what is left. Foreign nationals make up as much as 88% of the population in the UAE, and migrant workers often receive low pay and work in forced labor.

The country has made some progress in the arena of workers’ rights. For example, an unprecedented bill passed in 2017, guaranteeing certain labor rights. However, the visa sponsorship program in the UAE still ties migrant workers to their employers with strict punishments for those who leave. Systemic financial inequality and lax workers’ rights policies force migrant workers to bear the brunt of poverty in the United Arab Emirates.

Water Insecurity

The U.N. defines “water-scarce” as having less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per capita, per year. The UAE has less than half of that figure. Lacking renewable freshwater, the country relies on desalination, which provides 98% of the water supply for the 2 million people in Dubai. The Water Resources Institute ranked the country 10th out of 164 countries with the most extreme water supply issues.

While desalination plants have picked up some slack, water insecurity is a looming threat in the region. The issue will likely affect members of the lowest classes of Emirati society first. Luckily, organizations like the nonprofit UAE Water Aid Foundation, or SUQIA, are working to provide accessible, potable water throughout the world. Since 2015, SUQIA has helped by improving water purification practices, building wells, installing water coolers and improving water distribution networks and sanitation facilities. This aid organization has expanded its efforts outside the UAE, helping over 13 million individuals suffering from water insecurity in 36 countries. Improving water access and sustainability has a direct impact on millions suffering from predatory labor norms and poverty in the United Arab Emirates.

Food Supply

The lack of a sustainable source of freshwater means the UAE cannot grow enough food to support its population. As such, the UAE relies on imports for 90% of its food supply. This causes the nation to be extremely vulnerable to global shortages and price changes. While the UAE is able to provide food to most of its citizens, projections determine that its population could grow by over 2 million people in the next five years, which could increase pressure on the fragile food supply. Consumption is similarly growing by 12% each year. Migrant workers and other less-wealthy individuals could suffer first because of this growth.

Less than 5% of the land in the UAE is arable farmland, yet over 80% of the water in the country goes to this tiny agriculture sector. As a result, entrepreneurs like those at Madar Farms are working to increase productivity. The company, led by Abdulaziz Al Mulla, purchased old storage containers and repurposed them into indoor farms, growing vegetables under LED lights. These efforts have also translated to the Persian Gulf, where the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment has built artificial caves and established coral gardens to improve the sustainability of fish farming. Doing so enhances the sustainable food supply, which will largely help those suffering from poverty in the United Arab Emirates. National programs like this reduce the risk of a hunger crisis should global supply plummet.

Poverty in the United Arab Emirates

While few associate poverty with the UAE, the reality is that millions struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Restrictive labor policies in the country provide little help to people in lower socioeconomic classes. Water insecurity is a relatively well-known issue in the UAE, but few recognize hunger as a common problem.

In truth, the UAE has been able to provide for most of its people, but it is easy to overlook everyday threats. Water insecurity and food supply will harm impoverished Emiratis far before they reach the wealthy classes associated with the country. Luckily, organizations like SUQIA and Madar farms are at the forefront of building workable solutions. These efforts provide hope for the UAE, a country that would suffer if left to rely solely on global markets.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Poultry Workers
Chicken is one of the most consumed meats in America. According to the USDA, estimates determine that the per capita American consumption of chicken will rise from 28 pounds per person in 1960 to 94 pounds per person in 2020. This is in contrast to the per capita consumption of beef in America, which projections determine will fall from 94.1 pounds in 1976 to 57.5 pounds per person in 2020. This certainly reflects the rising demand for broiler meat, or commercial chicken farmers breed and raise for meat production in the U.S. However, not many Americans wish to work in poultry processing factories. In response to this shortage of workers, many poultry companies use migrant workers to fill their processing lines. Recent reports suggest that these migrant poultry workers are in danger of harsh working conditions and labor exploitation.

Issues with Poultry Processing Plants in the U.S.

Although poultry processing plants use machinery, much of killing, deboning and packaging of chicken still depend on human hands. The processing rooms’ temperature is usually at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to reduce microbial growth. However, this cold temperature makes it harder for the line workers to safely use their sharp cutting tools since their hands get stiff from the cold temperature. The factories’ demand to process chicken at a faster pace further compounds this hardship. The U.S. Department of Agriculture caps the speed of these processing lines at 140 chickens per minute. However, reports suggest that many processing plants increase their line speed in order to meet their company’s quota. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data further reflects these dangerous conditions. In addition, line workers repeat the same motion while performing their job of disassembling a chicken. Some reports suggest that 86 percent of line workers suffer from wrist pains, swollen joints and chronic pain in their hands and arms.

Migrant Poultry Workers in the U.S.

Migrant poultry workers fill the labor demand of the poultry industry. The EB-3 visa allows poultry companies to hire migrant workers. As long as a company places two want ads seeking American workers in a local newspaper and a notice on the state jobs board, poultry companies can justify hiring an immigrant instead of an American. Many migrant poultry workers, if documented, agree to what might be less-than-ideal working conditions for a promise of green-sponsorship by their employers.  Responding to this high demand, there are migration consultants outside of the U.S. who charge between $20,000 and $130,000 to help a migrant worker immigrate to America. This high fee can be a cause of poverty for many migrant poultry workers since the majority of them will make less than $20,000 a year.

According to the Human Rights Watch’s 2019 report, nearly 30 percent of meat and poultry workers were foreign-born non-citizens in 2015. Among this number, an estimated one-fourth of the migrant workers were undocumented. This visa sponsorship by poultry companies makes it harder for the migrant workers to protest against the harsh working conditions of poultry processing factories. Whether a migrant worker is documented or undocumented, the recent rhetoric of the U.S. government toward migrants is making many workers in the poultry industry nervous. In 2019, for example, accusations emerged that multiple poultry companies conspired to keep the wages down for their immigrant workforce.

Improving the Poultry Industry in the U.S.

There are many people and organizations that are striving to improve the working conditions in the poultry industry. Many human rights groups encourage the consumers to voice their dissatisfaction with the current state of working conditions in poultry processing plants. By voicing their dissatisfaction, humanitarian groups believe that this will give more power to the migrant poultry workers to voice their plights.

Tyson, one of the biggest poultry meat suppliers in the U.S., made a pledge in 2017 that it will improve the working conditions in its factories. In the pledge, Tyson stated its commitment to reduce worker injury rate by 15 percent until it reaches zero, increase employee retention by 10 percent each year and improve the transparency between the public and its factories. In 2020, the Humane Society of the U.S. and other groups sued the USDA for increasing the line speed at U.S. poultry processing plants. In its 2019 report, The Human Rights Watch encouraged the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take charge of improving the work conditions.

The harsh working conditions and treatment of migrant poultry workers in the poultry industry certainly presents a complicated picture. Chicken is becoming America’s favorite choice of protein as it is surpassing beef in terms of per capita consumption. However, behind every piece of chicken, there are migrant workers who must face constant hardships on a daily basis. The cold temperature of the factories causes numerous physical ailments for the workers, while many forego voicing their plight in fear of deportation. The solution is not to stop eating chicken. Instead, as many human rights organizations have demonstrated, consumers must voice their dissatisfaction with the poultry industry. With the recent surge in the public interest for the working conditions of the poultry industry, many hope that better and more fulfilling working conditions are coming for the poultry workers of the U.S.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

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