In a benchmark reform, Qatar authorities have set a temporary minimum wage for migrant workers at $200 per month, following global scrutiny over the alleged ill-treatment of foreign workers.
World Cup 2022 host Qatar came under criticism for its treatment of some two million migrant workers and pledged last month to introduce a series of major labour reforms.
The minimum wage initiative was announced by labour minister, Issa al-Nuaimi, who explained that the “temporary minimum wage of 750 riyals ($195) per month will immediately come into effect”, while officials work on setting a permanent rate.
He added that in addition to the new salary, workers will receive free accommodation, food and healthcare plans covered by employers.
This is the first time Qatar has introduced a minimum wage policy, and officials confirmed that the wage could increase upon review.
“We will not approve any employment contract if the salary is below 750 riyals a month,” Nuaimi said. “All contracts must now be approved by the ministry (of labour).”
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) backed the reforms pushed forward by Qatar.
“The new guidance from Qatar signals the start of real reforms in Qatar which will bring to an end the use of modern slavery and puts the country on the pathway to meeting its international legal obligations on workers’ rights,” said its general secretary, Sharan Burrow.
In 2015, Qatar introduced the Wage Protection System, which allowed workers to receive their salaries electronically, and last December, Qatar announced the end of much criticised “kafala” system, replacing it with a contract-based system.
Right groups have backed the reforms, however continue to question if Qatar will live up to its promises.
Nuaimi assures critics that Qatar is set on these reforms, insisting that: “Qatar’s pledge does not end here. This is a long-term commitment and we will make further improvements.”
The labour reforms come at a time where Qatar finds itself in the centre of a regional crisis threatening to destabilise the Gulf.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June following claims Doha supports “terrorist” groups and is too close to Iran. Qatar denies the accusations.
A blockade was enforced on Qatar by Gulf states, which has been condemned by human rights groups.