Qatar will introduce new labour regulations by early next year, replacing the controversial kafala sponsorship system, the country’s labour and social affairs ministry said in a statement.
The kafala system, which requires workers to obtain permission from their sponsors before leaving the country or when changing jobs has caused labour abuse among blue-collar workers employed in the country, a report from the human rights group Amnesty showed.
But the Gulf state said that it will soon be putting an end to the oft-criticised labour system, with the new regulations currently being reviewed by the government.
“We intend to effect meaningful and lasting change for the benefit of all those who live and work in Qatar,” the labour ministry said.
Qatar has faced strong international criticism following a report by Britain-based The Guardian newspaper earlier this year, which unearthed incidents of severe labour abuse in construction sites across Qatar.
Rights groups also stepped up pressure on Qatar to introduce labour reforms after another report by the International Trade Union Confederation, which said that about 4,000 workers could die in construction sites by 2022.
In response to the call for reforms, the GCC member state announced plans in May to replace the contentious kafala system with formal employment contracts aimed to provide more leeway for employees.
Under the reforms previously announced by the government, workers will have their wages paid electronically to avoid late payments or no payments.
The country also said that it would adopt a “unified accommodation standard”, a measure apparently aimed at improving the quality of migrant workers’ housing.
Officials have also proposed raising fines from QAR10,000 to QAR50,000 on employers if they hold the passport of an employee.
Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers has come under even stricter scrutiny of late as the country begins preparation to host the football 2022 World Cup.