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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Qatar will use World Cup as a catalyst to improve conditions for migrant workforce

Qatar will use World Cup as a catalyst to improve conditions for migrant workforce

Just as striking as the comfortable lifestyle enjoyed by Qataris and European expats in Doha are the conditions afforded to the migrant labourers who have built the city.

Qatar will use World Cup as a catalyst to improve conditions for migrant workforce
Sea view: Qataris and expats enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Doha but it is a different story for migrant workers Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The issue is a sensitive one for Qatar and other Gulf states, who operate a “sponsorship” system that means workers can only enter the country with backing from an employer, and can only leave when they are released from their contract.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, holding a summit on the issues with Gulf states including Qatar in Kuwait this week, temporary contractual workers constitute 86 per cent of Qatar’s population of around 1.6 million.
That number is predicted to grow by more than one million as the country expands its labour force to build facilities for the 2022 World Cup and other infrastructure commitments set out in the country’s national plan, Qatar 2030. The influx, boosted by the need for staff in the emerging service sector, could see Qatari nationals diluted to less than five per cent of the population in 20 years.
Migrants are fundamental to the Gulf economy but this huge social experiment may not be popular with Qataris. In a recent survey by Qatar University 76 per cent said they thought there were too many foreign residents.
Qatar says it will use the World Cup as a catalyst to improve conditions for workers after receiving criticism in recent years from the US government, which ranked it among countries that “do not satisfy the minimum standards of labour rights, or demonstrates reasonable effort to comply with them.” Primarily housed in large labour camps in the Industrial Area to the south west of Doha, convoys ferry workers to and from construction sites and road building projects across the city.