Qatar will introduce an electronic contract system for migrant workers early next year, a top official was quoted as saying.
FIFA World Cup 2022 host is planning to have the system in place by the first quarter of 2016, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs official Mohammed Ali Al Meer told AFP news agency. He added that the e-contracts will make the workers more aware of their rights.
With the new e-contract system, the labourers will be able to access the government website by entering details such as their names or visa numbers and view their contracts.
The workers will also be able to read the contracts in their own languages, reducing the chances of them being duped by unscrupulous middlemen. Meer said that the service will be initially offered in 10 languages, including Nepalese and Urdu.
It is not mandatory for companies to sign up for the new e-contracts system but Meer said that the government is anticipating a strong interest from private companies.
Qatar, like other Gulf countries, is heavily dependent on labour from Asian countries to fuel its construction boom.
But human rights advocates have criticised the country for not according even minimum protection to its large number of migrant workers, often likening the condition to modern day slavery. Activists have been particularly vocal about Qatar’s Khafala sponsorship system that authorises employers to confiscate travel documents of workers, stopping them from changing jobs.
Inadequate labour laws have also led to widespread abuse of workers at the hands of their sponsors, human rights groups say.
According to a 2013 report by the International Trade Union Confederation, an average of 400 workers were reported to have died in the country as a result of harsh working conditions. The report warned that around 4,000 labourers’ lives were at risk as Qatar embarks on a building boom to prepare for the World Cup.
In response to international pressure, the Gulf country promised to introduce a number of labour reforms that would help improve workers’ conditions. They included the introduction of wage protection system, proper accommodations for its workers and changes to its Kafala sponsorship system.
But reforms have been slow to be introduced often hampered by bureaucratic hurdles, according to activists.
Earlier this year, Qatar postponed the introduction of online wage protection system that would ensure timely payment of wages to workers when in effect. The launch of WPS was postponed mainly to accommodate the requests from private companies for more time to comply with the regulations.