Report reveals soccer industry has done little to improve labor standards in Qatar

Migrant workers in West Bay, Doha (Alex Sergeev / / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Pressure from unions and human rights groups, rather than the world’s football governing body, Fifa, has enabled migrant workers in Qatar to get better wages and better conditions, according to a new report. report on the evolution of working conditions in the Gulf State.

Independent sports think tank Fifa Ethics and Regulation Watch (FERW) polled the workforce in the small Gulf state following reports that thousands had died to prepare the country for the FIFA World Cup. world of next year.

In a survey of workers, he found that reforms introduced by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and pressure from Amnesty International to abolish the hated system of sponsored labor kefala and introduce a minimum wage had improved lives. of the work force.

To the question “Does the World Cup help improve human rights and working conditions in Qatar?” 95% of workers, mainly from South Asia, said “yes” and 5% said no.

However, although 59% were aware of the reforms, 40% believed that they had not been implemented “effectively” and that more needed to be done.

Some 53% thought conditions had been improved for some, 16% thought laws needed to be applied more fairly and 13% said they had not benefited from the improvements.

Qatar’s preparation for the World Cup has led to scrutiny by media around the world of a £ 120 billion investment program to overhaul the country’s infrastructure, not just the construction of eight stadiums, but also a transport system and even a city.

The Doha authorities intervened in 2017 following negative publicity about workers’ conditions and called on the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as well as the ILO to oversee the reforms.

In addition to the removal of the kefala, which required workers to obtain permission from their employer to change jobs, and the introduction of a minimum wage, the changes also restricted the number of working hours allowed during summer months to avoid heat-related deaths.

According to the FERW report, it was the worldwide media attention to Qatar that brought improvements rather than a Fifa-induced change, which the author of the report sees as a “missed opportunity”.

Robert Oulds, the author of the report, said: “We were able to identify, and then verify through interviews with ordinary workers, that there had been significant legislative and regulatory improvements in recent years, felt by all workers. migrants, not just those working on the development of the World Cup stadiums.

“We then tried to identify who was responsible for these improvements; Fifa, campaign groups, the Emir or some other organization. Unfortunately, we found little or no evidence that football’s governing body was involved in this change, and that these improvements were driven by three factors, namely the leader of Qatar, the considerable work undertaken by NGOs like Amnesty and ILO and the scrutiny of the emirate and its treatment of foreign workers by the international media.

In February, Qatar was rocked by a report in The Guardian newspaper which calculated that there had been 6,500 migrant worker deaths since Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup in 2010.

Doha disputes this figure and says the death rate has steadily declined due to health and safety reforms.

In 2018, Fifa introduced rules obliging candidate countries to host future World Cups to disclose human rights risks and describe what they will do to deal with them.

  • Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily mail

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