Women’s Rights in Qatar
Qatar resides in the Middle East, just east of Saudi Arabia. The country boasts high economic prosperity, ranking among the highest in the world. It also occupies a low spot on the global list on gender gap — Qatar’s global ranking is 0.629 out of one. Qatar upholds female education and proactively attempts to improve women’s rights. However, women’s rights in Qatar need continued advocacy to decrease the country’s gender gap and increase equality.

Attempted Improvements

In 2009, Qatar became a member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Despite membership, the country did not fully commit to all portions of the convention. Qatar refuses to maintain the following: gender equality in domestic laws and policies, equality with regard to nationality, equality before the law, freedom of movement and of residence and domicile and equality in marriage and family life. These requirements contradict Islamic law.

Discriminatory Laws

Qatar’s legal system centers around Shari’a, Islamic law. When Qatar enacted a (discriminatory) law, it crafted it upon the government’s interpretation of a religious belief. In this way, women’s rights in Qatar experience subjection to possible sexist ideas based on misreadings or outdated practices.

In family events or in a court of law, people do not view the testimony of a woman as equal to that of a man’s. If a Qatari woman has children with a non-Qatari man, the children are unable to assume the Qatari nationality; whereas, if the man were to be of Qatari nationality, the children would be able to assume citizenship. Women seeking a divorce have far less ability to appear in court and receive a fair settlement.

Representation in Parliament

As of 2015, Qatar’s 29-member municipal council had only two female members and its legal system included just one female judge. In 2017, the Inter-Parliamentary Union elected four female representatives to serve on the Shura Council of Qatar (Qatar’s parliament) for the first time. The Shura Council of Qatar looks over government policy, creates proposals for new laws and renews the country’s financial allocation.

Women’s Education Rights

In contrast to the lack of women’s rights in Qatar, gender discrimination has consistently remained out of the education system. The government supplies education at no cost for all citizens between ages 6 and 16. It is one of the most generous countries in its fiscal allotment per-student and allocates a large majority of its funds toward education.

The youth literacy rate rests at about 98% and close to 96% of girls attend secondary school. Further, there are more women than men attending Qatar’s University College of Law. Qatar University also provides adult courses. The class offerings improve national literacy rates and help maintain women’s educational rights. After graduation, Qatari women have the complete freedom to enter the business and financial sectors.

Conclusion

A struggle for equality and women’s rights in Qatar still exists despite its progressive nature. The country is aware of this issue and is continuing its work to further the rights of women in Qatar. There have already been achievements in creating equal opportunities and legal reform for female citizens. More are sure to come with Qatar’s commitment to increased gender equality.

Adelle Tippetts
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Qatar
The U.N. defines human trafficking as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” Human trafficking in Qatar is a longstanding concern among international nonprofit organizations and human rights groups. The wealthy Gulf State’s ongoing campaign to bolster its soft power on the world stage and brand its capital Doha as a financial and investment hub comparable to its UAE neighbors Dubai and Abu Dhabi has gathered considerable momentum in recent years. The country is using large-scale construction projects such as an extravagant airport and lavish tourist attractions to cement the city’s position as an oasis of luxury and opulence. However, the dark cloud cast over how exactly the small but ambitious kingdom is achieving these construction feats remains a critical question mark.

The crown jewel of the Al Thani monarchy’s publicity campaign is undoubtedly the 2022 Qatar World Cup, which the country attained under questionable circumstances in a 2010 bid involving a high-profile bribery scandal and a multi-billion dollar proposal to secure the rights to host the upcoming soccer tournament. With the desert state’s day in the sun on the horizon, the kingdom began ramping up construction to prepare stadiums and indeed the city of Doha itself for its month in the spotlight of international attention.

Why Import Labor?

For a country like Qatar, one of the smallest sovereign states in the world covering an area roughly the size of Connecticut, such a large-scale undertaking presents one very crucial problem – labor. This is where human trafficking and labor exploitation are rearing their ugly heads time and time again in the development of the Gulf States. The ruling family and sponsors of Qatar’s development projects are seeking to meet the country’s manual labor needs by employing millions of vulnerable men and women from countries like India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Sudan seeking work abroad to send remittances back to their families. Today, of the 2.6 million people currently living in Qatar, 2.3 million are migrant workers from abroad working primarily in the domestic and construction sectors.

Abuse and Exploitation

Unscrupulous, predatory and loan-sharking recruiters in laborers’ home countries often work closely with contractors in Qatar to lure workers to the peninsula for extended periods of time under false pretenses. Upon arrival in the country, migrants are at the mercy of Qatar’s Kafala system of laws that govern the relationships between migrants, their employers and the Qatari state, placing economic migrants in a dangerous position of dependency. Under this structure of rules, the migrants’ visa and work permit status ties to a sponsor or employer which makes it illegal for workers to leave their employer or indeed the country itself without the employer’s official permission, creating a situation that is ripe for economic bondage and human trafficking in Qatar.

According to the U.S. State Department, workers suffer abuses such as:

  • Withheld Wages and Delayed Payment
  • Passport Confiscation
  • Abhorrent Company-Sponsored Living Conditions
  • Excessive Hours
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Hazardous Working Conditions
  • Debt Bondage
  • Prostitution
  • The Threat of Serious Physical Harm

Progress and Promises

There is hope, though. Facing mounting international pressure from democratic governments and NGOs such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, the Qatari government is making “significant promises of reform ahead of the 2022 World Cup” according to Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues. Such reforms include the establishment of a workers support and insurance fund, the announcement of a new minimum wage, dissolution of the laws necessitating employer permission for workers to leave the employer or the country, and a signed commitment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to combat the brutal exploitation of workers and human trafficking in Qatar.

The Good News

Although the reforms on paper still lack the unwavering enforcement that is necessary to implement the new laws to their fullest extent, their creation signals a willingness of the Qatari government to meet certain labor standards ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which at this time should proceed as scheduled. The good news is that the country’s need to build and preserve its reputation at the center of its soft power initiatives allows for a motivated international community to demand immediate reforms and changes in labor laws and policies. In the context of growing calls to boycott the tournament if it does not meet standards and increasing international attention as the tournament nears, the Qatari government is likely to respond to sustained pressure if others apply it with strength and in numbers.

– Cem Gokhan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Qatar's Foreign Aid
Qatar is one of the world’s wealthiest counties, and by some metrics, the wealthiest. Even more so than its fellow petroleum-exporting neighbors, Qatar is an indisputable giant in the oil industry, holding 13% of the world’s global oil supply. The nation’s vast wealth, compounded by its population of only about 3 million, contributes to the Qatari citizens’ notably high quality of life, as seen in Qatar’s minuscule unemployment rate of 0.4% and its population life expectancy of 79.4 years in comparison to the global average of 71 years. The small nation’s close proximity to poorer regions and conflict areas make it a highly capable potential distributor of much needed foreign aid. Qatar has an interesting variety of causes and countries to which it has supplied considerable development assistance, but the country’s massive wealth elicits the possibility of an expanded foreign aid budget. Here is some information about Qatar’s foreign aid.

Regional Development Cooperation

Qatar’s foreign aid record tells the story of a nation devoting most of its foreign development cooperation to its more poverty-stricken neighbors, including Morocco, Yemen, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip region and Egypt. Funding went mostly into sectors such as construction and infrastructure. Unfortunately, the latest foreign aid report by the Qatari government was released in 2013, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates a total foreign aid contribution of $1.3 billion that year alone.

After the summer of 2014, which significantly elevated conflicts between Israel and Gaza, nations including Qatar, the U.S., the U.K. and other Gulf states made foreign aid contributions to Gaza, with Qatar’s being the largest with a pledge of $1 billion. Qatar’s massive donation evolved into a cash distribution program to tens of thousands of family-specific beneficiaries.

Qatari aid in Syria has had an impact on both financial and political levels; Qatar has donated more than $1.6 billion in humanitarian aid for conflict victims as well as vocally called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Contributions to Wealthier Nations

Beyond regular contributions to the surrounding economies of Qatar, the small but financially prosperous nation has given considerable aid to wealthier countries in times of crisis. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and caused $360 billion in damage and took nearly 16,000 lives. Along with a substantive monetary donation, Qatar was the host of a multinational football match to raise funds for Japan in the wake of the disaster. The relief aid went mostly to infrastructural projects and the purchase and transportation of natural gases to refill Japan’s national stores.

The Potential for More

As stated earlier, Qatar’s foreign aid comprised of $1.3 billion in 2013. While this is the latest official report and one that the Qatari government published on its own, Qatar has also worked in a partnership with the OECD to publicize and account for its development aid activity. As per the website for Qatar’s own Department of International Cooperation, one of the departments’ many functions includes participation in the “development of the state policy in the field of aid and developmental and humanitarian assistance” and supporting “economic and social development in developing countries.”

However, despite any prioritization of international development cooperation within the department, one can easily determine that Qatar operates far below its capabilities in terms of being a prominent source of foreign aid. Compare Qatar to the United States, which has a population of about 330 million – 110 times larger than Qatar’s population of about 3 million – and a foreign aid budget of a little under $40 billion. Factoring in the nation’s smaller population and its prosperous financial stature, Qatar is more than capable of being one of the world’s largest contributors to international development cooperation.

Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar
Ever since the International Federation of Association Football’s (FIFA) announcement that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, migrant flows to the country have exploded. Since 2010, Qatar has sought to bring thousands of workers to its shores in order to assist in the construction of stadiums, hotels and other infrastructure necessary to facilitate the tournament. To meet this demand, migrants from all over the Persian Gulf region, we well as South Asia, have flooded into the country. Migrants hoped to escape dire straits in order to find a stable job and a stable income. In fact, 700,000 workers came from India alone. However, migrant poverty in Qatar has become a significant issue.

Migrants in Qatar

According to Human Rights Watch, the migrant labor force has reached over 2 million, making up approximately 95% of the labor force. However, despite being the second richest country in the world with a GDP per capita of $124,500 in 2017, a lack of labor rights has created widespread poverty in Qatar, especially among migrants.

The reason poverty persists among workers is the kafala sponsorship system. Migrants have to apply for visas from employers, often incurring costs through recruiters to do so. Even if workers do manage to pay enough to get access to a job, employers have broad controls over what workers can do. Employers often take passports from workers, preventing them from escaping brutal conditions. Additionally, some workers have gone with little to no pay. This has led to hundreds of thousands of people living in labor camps, where disease and poverty are rampant.

Solutions

In 2017 and 2018, Qatar’s government passed policies intended to reduce migrant poverty in Qatar. In October 2017, the government established a temporary minimum wage for migrant workers in the hopes of improving the conditions of laborers. One year later, in October 2018, Amnesty International reported that Qatar implemented a support and insurance fund in order to protect workers from lost wages.

However, Human Rights Watch reports that both of these reforms were implemented unevenly, and thus have not had much of an effect. Employers still have a lot of control over workers, and poor enforcement has meant that the kafala structure is still in place.

On August 30, 2020, Qatar announced two new reforms in order to rectify this issue. The first was an increase in the existing minimum wage. The law will take effect in January 2021, and also requires employers to pay workers a stipend for food and housing. The second was a law to allow workers to leave their jobs without having express permission from their employers. This mobility could allow workers to escape dangerous conditions and find better work.

Such reforms could even save lives, as even the lowest estimates indicate that at least 1,200 people have died working on World Cup stadiums due to harsh conditions. International watchdogs have applauded these reforms. Amnesty International argues that these small steps provide some hope that migrant poverty in Qatar, as well as worker exploitation, will soon be on the decline.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

For decades, the Middle East has had a complex reality. It has been divided into two groups of countries: those looking toward new opportunities and peace, and those involved in instability and wars that have increased national poverty, hunger and despair. The region’s dynamics are not easy to understand with the analysis of simple single factors. As such, there are many reasons to contribute to Qatar Charity. The Qatar Charity is one of the largest humanitarian non-governmental organizations working to provide essential aid to vulnerable populations through developmental programs. It has reached 29 million people with its projects and initiatives valued at $1.2 billion.

Alarmed by the convoluted context in the Middle East and the number of orphan children from wars and conflict, Qatar Charity is committed to being a leader in the global emergency response and sustainable development solutions. The organization currently has field offices in 30 countries and is developing partnerships in 20 more. Qatar Charity continues to aim for a wider reach and help in fields such as social welfare, sanitation, education, nutrition and economic empowerment that will ultimately help vulnerable communities prosper.

Qatar Charity’s Initiatives and Programs

Since 1979, Qatar Charity has been working exhaustively in its commitment to poverty reduction. Three examples are not enough to demonstrate the huge impact that this organization has made, but it is a hint of the capacities and effective programs and strategies that allow the organization to fulfill its goal.

WASH facilities provision in Pakistan

Mirpur Khas, Sindh, is a dry territory in Pakistan. The limited access to food and scarce water supplies have led to extreme poverty, unemployment and threats to the health and safety of the inhabitants. In 2019, Qatar Charity intervened in the locality. It worked to promote health, hygiene and awareness through educational programs and the provision of safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities. The organization installed 440 BioSand filters in households and constructed 278 flush latrines.

Aid to Sudan

Qatar Charity has initiated a lot of projects to help Sudan overcome disasters and improve the poor living conditions. This year, Qatar Charity, in partnership with Qatar Airways, sent an aircraft to Sudan carrying 100 tons of food and medical supplies that were later distributed under the “Peace for Sudan” campaign.

Additionally, the Qatar Fund for Development and Qatar Charity signed an agreement to implement a project to strengthen the health system emergency preparedness in Sudan. It will equip isolated health centers, train health workers and issue the emergency preparedness plan in 16 localities. This project is expected to benefit around two million people.

COVID-19 Relief in Yemen

Qatar Charity is helping 150,000 Yemenis that were impacted by the pandemic. For this cause, the organization targeted areas with poor health services. It now provides equipment to treat those affected by the virus and sterilization devices to prevent more infections. Additionally, it granted sanitizers, cleaning materials, masks, medical ventilators, oxygen cylinders and other materials to help Yemen cope with the virus amid the country’s lack of financial resources, support and medical supplies.

The Impact

The organization is committed to helping communities in extreme poverty, crises and perplexing circumstances. It analyses the needs and areas of intervention and works closely with the governments to coordinate its efforts to the country’s development strategies. The organization considers the development and humanitarian indicators of the areas, the accessibility of humanitarian partnership and cooperation opportunities. Through this framework, and with the help of thousands of sponsors, it has successfully become an example of commitment and solidarity.

In countries with weak institutions and fragile societies, dynamics make it harder to cope with disasters. Many times, the casualties and costs in terms of infrastructure, human capital and economic resources are significant. When a disaster occurs, it is necessary to act rapidly and build a proper strategy to save lives, avoid traumas and ultimately help communities thrive. For this reason, Qatar Charity works to effectively address the causes in the countries in which it operates.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Unsplash

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

Hunger in Qatar
Qatar is a small country located on the Qatar Peninsula in the Middle East, neighboring Saudi Arabia on its southern land border and surrounded by the Persian Gulf on all other sides. Qatar is a desert nation with a small population of 2.4 million as of July 2020. Since gaining its independence from Britain in 1971, Qatar has been a constitutional monarchy. It has a strong economy and a high per capita income, driven largely by its natural gas and oil reserves which rank third-largest in the world. Still, Qatar’s geography as an isolated desert deems the nation vulnerable to food shortages and leaves its large population of migrant workers especially susceptible to starvation. Here are four facts about hunger in Qatar.

4 Facts about Hunger in Qatar

  1. Qatar is almost entirely dependent on imported food. In 2017, Qatar imported around 90% of its food largely due to its lack of stable agriculture. This dependence combined with Qatar’s location on a peninsula leaves the country vulnerable to blockades and supply-chain interruptions.
  2. Qatar’s neighbors are currently blockading it. In 2017, five Middle Eastern countries severed ties with Qatar over allegations that the Qatari government supported terrorist groups. This conflict resulted in hostile action from the country’s neighbor, Saudi Arabia: the Saudi Arabian government closed Qatar’s only land border, as well as banned most flights to and from Qatar from its airspace. Because Qatar typically receives 40% of its food via its shared border with Saudi Arabia and many poorer Qatari people rely on Saudi Arabian grocers for cheaper prices, Qatar immediately experienced a spike in food prices. Qatar has successfully avoided widespread hunger by opening new import relationships with Turkey and Iran, and by aggressively pursuing new means of local food production.
  3. Qatar has the best food security in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In 2019, Qatar ranked 13th out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index—an international database that considers quality, affordability and availability of food. This relatively high ranking is largely thanks to the Qatari government’s constant efforts to improve food security by enabling its people to produce their own food. For example, Qatar has imported 4,000 cows from Europe since 2017, and the Qatar-based Sahara Forest Project is creating innovative ways to convert portions of Qatar’s extensive deserts into arable farmland. These projects are part of wider efforts that have allowed Qatar to reduce its dependence on foreign food to 70% as of 2020.
  4. Qatar’s large migrant worker population is vulnerable to hunger. The COVID-19 outbreak has left many of Qatar’s largely Southeast Asian and African migrant workers, who make up approximately 80% of Qatar’s population of 2.5 million, jobless and hungry. The Qatari government has established a system for unpaid and underfed migrant workers to file complaints, as well as instituted a $20 billion stimulus package to help companies continue paying their workers. Still, many advocates believe the government needs to act more aggressively to ensure companies are providing adequate care to their employees.

Overall, hunger in Qatar is relatively low due to the country’s general prosperity and the government’s diligent efforts to improve food security. While the nation’s precarious geographic position means the threat of food shortages is always looming, this obstacle has led to exciting innovations in desert agriculture that could become instrumental in combating hunger worldwide. At the same time, hunger in Qatar’s migrant worker population threatens to become a serious problem amid the instability and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Dylan Weir
Photo: Wikimedia

7 Measures to Tackle COVID-19 in Qatar
Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.

7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar

  1. In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
  2. Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
  3. As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
  4. The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
  5. A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
  6. Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
  7. The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.

Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Good Free Photos

Labor reforms in Qatar
In the prelude to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar received relentless criticism on migrants’ working conditions from the international community and mass media, causing the government to transform its labor system and uphold the rights of migrant workers through sweeping reforms.

Kafala System

Qatar’s kafala system ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers by requiring them to obtain their permission (a no-objection certificate) in order to change jobs. This, in turn, gives the employer entire control over the exit visa of his employees. This sponsorship and visa system not only leads to abuses and exploitation of labor practices, including the confiscation of migrant workers’ passports, but it also prevents a local domestic labor market from operating. Thus, radical labor reforms in Qatar are necessary in order for the country to develop itself according to international standards and to modernize its economy.

Recent Reforms

One of the significant steps Qatar made in 2017 was concluding a cooperation accord with the International Labor Organization (ILO). It stated that it would set a minimum wage and promised to repeal the kafala system. Later in 2017, Qatar introduced a temporary minimum wage of 750 Qatari Rial (approximately $200) and plans on introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage by the end of 2019, making it the first country in the Gulf region to do so. These labor reforms in Qatar will improve migrant workers’ rights significantly, which will not only increase their working conditions but also their motivation to work, resulting in a more efficient and productive economy. In addition, Law No. 13 entered into force in October 2018, stating that migrant workers would no longer need their employers’ permission to enter and exit the country. These laws contribute to transforming Qatar’s current system into a modern industrial relations system.

Ending the Kafala System

However, Qatar still has not abolished the kafala system which caused hundreds of workers to go on strike and protest in August 2019. This is barring the fact that Qatari law strictly bans joining unions and participating in strikes. Protesting workers have reported that they have not received pay for months and are not receiving their renewed working permits from their employers, making it illegal for them to stay in the country. Consequently, Qatar’s Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs announced that the reform ending the Kafala system will enter into force in January 2020, facilitating the efficacy of the other recently introduced reforms as a whole.

Issue of Irregular Migration

Although positive, these reforms and Labor Laws do not cover migrant domestic workers with a local Qatari contract, meaning that the Labor Law does not protect them and they cannot seek assistance from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. By excluding migrant domestic workers, Qatar is not tackling the issue of irregular migrants and the illegality of employment, which is a major concern for the local authorities. The Sponsorship Law binds domestic migrant workers to their employers, and so, if they suffer abuse, they are likely to abscond and either seek illegal work in the country or attempt to return to their home country. An underground informal labor market developed in Qatar due to the high number of irregular workers looking for work, which is a predominant issue for the government. Indeed, one of the key objectives included in the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to develop a knowledge-based economy consisting of highly skilled people and reduce Qatar’s dependency on low-skilled foreign nationals. Therefore, the inclusion of domestic migrant workers and resolving the issue of irregular/illegal workers is essential for Qatar’s plan to become a modern economy with highly-skilled people.

The current labor reforms in Qatar are a major step towards improving the human rights of the millions of migrant workers living in the country, in addition to contributing to the development of Qatar’s fast-growing economy. Despite the implementation of these laws seeming interminable, Qatar focuses on long-lasting and profound changes in its labor market with the help and recognition of international organizations such as the ILO and the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Pixabay

airlines fight poverty
When thinking about airlines, people often only think about things such as comfort, price and convenience. Many forget to consider the different ways their favorite airlines make a difference to people around the world. Below lists how five of the world’s top airlines fight poverty.

How 5 Global Airlines Fight Poverty

  1. Qatar Airways: Travelers voted Qatar Airways the best airline in the world in 2019. The airline fights poverty by supporting and donating to charity projects in over 43 countries around the globe. One of these is Educate A Child. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar founded this initiative to provide children facing extreme poverty with opportunities for education. Since 2013, Qatar Airways’ customers and employees raised $2.3 million for the initiative. The airline matches the funds that customers donate onboard. Educate A Child works in countries around the world, from Uganda to Lebanon and Haiti.
  2. British Airways (BA): This airline fights poverty in partnership with Comic Relief through the Flying Start program. The airline raised more than 23 million pounds since the program’s inception in June 2010. Customers raise funds when they donate via the BA website or onboard the airlines. British Airways staff also gather donations via onboard collections as well as by participating in individual or group challenges such as skydiving, mountain climbing and cycling. Through Flying Start, BA helped more than 620,000 children and youth across the U.K. and other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and India.
  3. JetBlue: Travelers voted JetBlue the best airline in the U.S. The airline worked with the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) Project since 2008 to provide equal opportunity to high-quality education to children in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with DREAM, JetBlue can reach 6,000 youth each year.Since 2006, JetBlue also partnered with First Book to give brand new books to children who would otherwise not be able to afford books or other learning material. The airline successfully distributed more than 430,000 new books to children in local U.S. communities as well as around the world. In 2016, when JetBlue launched its inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador, its donation of 500 books to the Working Boys’ Center marked the first time since 2008 that the center received new books.
  4. Etihad Airways: The national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worked with Magic Bus to support children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in India. In December 2016, a group of volunteers from the airline’s staff worked in Mumbai and constructed a sports field, a weatherproof outdoor shelter as well as a vegetable garden. Since its founding 20 years ago, Magic Bus helped more than 1 million children across 22 states in India as well as children in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain skills and knowledge necessary to move out of poverty.
  5. Lufthansa: The German airline won the best European airline award in 2019. Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa employees formed an aid organization called the Help Alliance in 1999. It is through this alliance that the airline fights poverty. Currently, it manages 50 projects worldwide. The donations alone fund these programs. The Help Alliance constructed iThemba Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa where more than 200 students studied since January 2018. When the project finishes, 700 students will have the chance to receive a quality education. This is important as more than 2,000 children in Cape Town do not get the chance to attend school. In Brazil, the Broadening Horizons program enables 30 disadvantaged youth from around Sao Paulo Airport to receive vocational training as bakers or confectioners. The youth undergo six months of training after which most of them find jobs in one of the many catering companies, hospitals and hotels in the region.

Beyond moving people from one place to another, top airlines in the world give back to the communities around them. Customers can choose to travel with airlines that fight poverty and make a small donation to help them in their quest.

Sophia N. Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay