Labourers working at the construction site of the Al Wakrah football stadium. Image Credit: AFP

Doha: Qatar said it expects “100 per cent compliance” from businesses by the end of 2016 with a labour reform designed to ensure the country’s vast migrant workforce receive their salaries on time.

Government figures released in Doha on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Wage Protection System (WPS) show that 1.8 million — around 85 per cent — of Qatar’s 2.1 million workforce are now paid electronically.

That works out at around 37,000 companies.

But a senior labour ministry official told AFP that all companies will sign up to the scheme by the end of December.

“Our aim is to have 100 per cent compliance by the end of the year,” said Mohammad Ali Al Meer, the director of Qatar’s labour inspection department.

“We have a commitment from the (remaining) 15 per cent, we have contacted them.”

The WPS was introduced on November 2 last year by the 2022 football World Cup host in an attempt to improve labour conditions following widespread international criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.

Failure to pay salaries on time, especially for low-waged blue collar workers, was one of the biggest complaints voiced by rights groups against companies in the energy-rich Gulf state.

A 2013 academic study, “Portrait of Low-Income Migrants in Contemporary Qatar,” found that around a fifth of migrant workers were “sometimes, rarely or never” paid on time.

Bosses of companies who do not pay their staff on time face fines of up to 6,000 Qatari Riyals for every worker who did not receive their salary, and up to one month in jail, under the WPS.

Labour officials said 385 violations had been issued against companies still not paying workers on time in the past 12 months, though it was unclear whether any bosses had been imprisoned.

The WPS has been largely welcomed by critics, but there have been complaints that the government dragged its heels in introducing the system — it was initially delayed for several months  — and not been strong enough in enforcing compliance, a charge denied by Doha.

“The ministry is tough enough dealing with companies that don’t comply with the WPS system,” insisted Meer.

Despite this, problems still exist.

In September it was reported that as many as 400 migrant staff working for an electrical company in Qatar had gone unpaid for up to four months.

In a government statement released on Wednesday, labour minister Essa Bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi said that although challenges remained, WPS had ensured “greater protections for workers”.