Qatar to introduce electronic contract system for workers in 2016

Friday 18/09/2015
Service will be initially offered in 10 languages

DOHA - World Cup 2022 football host Qatar, widely criticised for its record on workers' rights, is to introduce a pioneering electronic contract system for labourers early next year, officials said Tuesday.

The system, thought to be the first of its kind in Qatar, should be in place by the end of March 2016, Mohamed Ali Al Meer, a senior official at the ministry of labour and social affairs, said.

"We are working on this system to be in place in the first quarter of the coming year," Meer said. "It will help the worker so he knows his rights."

Under the new system, labourers will be able to access a government website and by entering personal details such as their name, ID or visa number, be able to view their work contract.

Many workers will be able to see what they have signed up for in Qatar for the first time in their own language, said officials, as many sign contracts written in English or Arabic only.

The service will be initially offered in 10 languages, including Nepalese and Irdu.

There have been many reports of labourers being duped on contracts, in key areas such as pay.

One such worker, a Ghanaian labourer called Hassan, told AFP this year he had signed a contract he thought meant he would be paid $900 per month, but it was only for 900 Qatari riyals per month, or around $250.

"If the worker has made any kind of contract with an employer, say for $800 a month, and they come here and they are paid $700, the ministry will take up the case for the worker," Meer said.

The scheme will not be compulsory but Meer said he expected many companies to sign up.

Qatar has received plenty of criticism for its treatment of labourers.

Officials said that the electronic contract system is part of an overall reform package which will also see the introduction of a wage protection system in November and changes to the notorious "kafala" system, which limits the movement of foreign workers, to be announced possibly later this year.

Some 1.7 million foreign workers are based in Qatar, many working directly or indirectly on World Cup projects.

That number is expected to increase to more than two million by 2020.

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