During his two-day trip, International Labour Organization Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo, held talks with senior Qatari officials and migrant worker representatives on issues including strengthening labour rights and standards and building social justice.
During his stay, between 2 – 4 December, the Director-General discussed the progress of and next steps for the ILO’s technical cooperation work in the country. He met senior Qatari officials, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, H.E. Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani and the Minister of Labour, H.E. Dr Ali bin Samikh Al Marri.
He also participated in a discussion on the future of work and United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 (on decent work and economic growth).
The ILO and Qatar have had a technical cooperation programme since 2017 which has resulted in an extensive range of labour reforms. These have included changes to the ‘kafala’ employment sponsorship system that meant workers no longer need their employers’ permission to change jobs or leave the country. Other reforms include the introduction of a minimum wage for all workers, an online labour complaints platform, labour courts, and the establishment of enterprise worker-management committees with elected migrant worker representatives.
There have also been improvements to safety and health at work, including further restrictions on daytime working hours to combat heat stress during the summer.
“I commend the State of Qatar for the progress that has been made in the past few years. Many lessons can be drawn from these labour reforms – for other countries and also for ILO operations,”
said the ILO Director-General. “We are discussing with the Government the possibility of establishing a longer-term ILO presence as we all recognize that we must continue on this positive trajectory, and enhance the implementation and enforcement of the new legislation. We are committed to maintaining our constructive dialogue and cooperation, to address the remaining challenges.”
Going forward, some of the priorities that the ILO has identified include the full implementation of the kafala reforms, wage protection, and ensuring more timely access to justice. Domestic workers also need greater protection against excessive working hours, and the improvements to occupational safety and health systems. The continued investment in data collection and analysis is also key to monitor the changes, identify gaps and support continuous improvement.
“Migrants play a key role in the economic, social and cultural development of their host countries and their communities back home.”
“Protecting their rights as workers and human beings is at the heart of the ILO’s mission to advance social justice and promote decent work.”
“We are ready to work with governments, workers, employers and any other partners in Qatar, and in all countries, to help us achieve this goal,” Houngbo said.