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Qatar study recommends better conditions for unskilled labourers

One-third of the 1,114 labourers surveyed in the field study said that they never received their wages on time

Gulf News

Manama: The wages and living conditions of unskilled labourers in the construction sector in Qatar are unfair and inadequate and should be improved, a local study indicates.

According to the findings published by Qatar's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), 30% of the unskilled labourers are paid QR800 ($220) a month and the remaining 70% receive around QR 1000 ($275).

In both cases, the amount is insufficient to sustain the labourers and their families in their home countries and which are generally large with many aged and dependent persons, the study said.

One-third of the 1,114 labourers surveyed in the field study said that they never received their wages on time, Qatari daily Gulf Times reported on Sunday, quoting the study.

Their living quarters and toilets and other amenities do not comply with standard regulations on health and hygiene, while accommodation for about 43% of them is six beds in a room and toilet use is on a sharing basis for 31% of them.

The findings are in direct contradiction with the labour law, said the study which also includes the views expressed by the Qatari owners of the firms employing the labourers. Qatari labour law is fair and comprehensive, but is challenged by abusers.

On the question of the current sponsorship system, 29% of the labourers said that they had no contact with their sponsors and 45% said that many among them who were semi-literate were often asked to do extra-contractual duties and were not paid for that work.

The Qatari sponsors believed that the current sponsorship system should continue until the development of a different structure. There should be measures to apprehend absconding labourers or staff who were locally trained for the required work.

Sponsors referred to instances of well qualified expatriates who cheated their employers or swindled money and fled. However, they also highlighted the fact that some Qatari employers were harsh and inhuman in their dealings with the labourers and the staff, especially in paying financial dues and granting exit permits to travel to their home country.

Under the controversial sponsorship system adopted in most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, no foreign worker can enter or leave the country or shift jobs without the approval of the sponsor. The excessive powers enjoyed by the sponsor in matters such as deporting an employee without valid reasons and legal procedures and withholding payments lawfully due to the employee should be abolished, the study said.

It also called for raising wages in keeping with the prevailing index of prices and ensuring that they are commensurate to the type of work done by the employee. There is a need to improve the living quarters, the amenities and the medical care facilities provided to the expatriate workforce,according to the study.