DOHA: Qatar on Sunday introduced a $275 monthly minimum wage and simplified the process for changing employers, the labor ministry said, following criticism of its treatment of foreign laborers.
It comes a week after a stinging Human Rights Watch (HRW) report highlighted the shortcomings of past efforts to improve conditions for migrant labourers who make up almost 90 percent of the population.
The new rules, which were announced on October 16, 2019 but only now signed into law, abolish the requirement that workers obtain a “no objection” certificate from their employer to change jobs.
They require all workers, including domestic staff, be paid at least 1,000 riyals ($275) for a month of full-time work — equivalent to around $1.30 an hour.
Employers are also required to either provide bed and board, or an additional 800 riyal a month allowance for food and accommodation.
Employers will have six months to implement the new minimum wage.
Previously, the temporary minimum wage was set at 750 riyals ($206) a month.
“To protect the interests of employers and employees alike, the labour ministry has today taken a major step forward in its labour reform programme by introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage and removing the no-objection certificate requirement,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the changes would “boost investment in the local economy and drive economic growth”.
Qatar has made a series of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host the 2022 World Cup which has required a vast program of construction dependent on foreign workers.
Rights groups have long said Qatar’s system of private companies sponsoring individual workers, which is used across the Gulf, fuels abuses. HRW said last week that some workers in Qatar were struggling to eat because employers were illegally withholding salaries as economic conditions worsen amid the coronavirus crisis.
The government insisted HRW’s survey of 93 migrant workers at 60 companies or employers was not representative and that “nearly all individuals who come to Qatar for employment never experience any form of wage abuse”.
More than two million foreigners work in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast infrastructure projects for the World Cup.