The future of labour reforms in Qatar

“The future is in implementation.” 

This was the consensus of the key actors pushing for labour reforms in Qatar at a forum hosted by BWI’s two-day Global Sports Conference on labour rights and the 2022 FIFA World Cup held November of last year.

Titled “Labour Reforms in Qatar: Prospects and Challenges,” the forum was organised amidst the Qatari government’s new commitments on a variety of labour issues ranging from changes in the kafala system to the establishment of workers' committees and mechanisms to address grievances efficiently and quickly.

The session was led by an expert panel comprised of Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) Assistant Undersecretary for Labour Affairs Mohammed Hassan Al-Obaidly, International Labour Organisation (ILO)-Qatar Head Houtan Houmayounpour, VINCI-QDVC Human Resources Director Hans Mielants, Philippine Embassy in Doha Labour Attaché David Des Dicang and INBCWF (India) President Ramachandra Khuntia. 

The discussion, which was presided by BWI Deputy President Dietmar Schäfers of IG BAU (Germany), discussed some of the milestones in the unfolding labour reforms in Qatar, the reforms’ impact and meaning to tripartite actors, as well as their sustainability. 

Al-Obaidly started the deliberations by delivering a special message to all stakeholders. This was followed by Houmayounpour who presented the different important perspectives of the ongoing labour reforms in Qatar. “From the perspective of workers, the labour reforms are important steps in realising fair and equal relations between workers and employers. On the side of business, the reforms make their human resources more dynamic, productive and competitive. And for governments, particularly the Qatari administration, the reforms foster industrial peace, especially amidst a pandemic,” Houmayounpour said. 

For VINCI-QDVC, a private Qatari construction company, the labour reforms make “good business sense.” “Our workers are more productive. We have more engaged people. We have a high referral rate. Migrant construction workers stay longer at their jobs; with 6 years the average length of time at a job, which is high compared to others.  We have also reduced costs and improved productivity,” Mielants said. 

However, the speakers all agreed that the biggest challenge for Qatar’s labour reforms is implementation. 

“We welcome the reforms though there are big challenges ahead. We need to go to the details of these reforms side by side with the task to strengthen and sustain open, diplomatic channels to communicate,” Dicang said.  

BWI echoed the same sentiment. 

“BWI, in partnership with the Qatari government and other stakeholders, played an important role in these labour reforms. However, these reforms needed to be taken seriously and closely monitored if they are to succeed,” Khuntia stressed.