Qatar Labor Law Change: Archaic ‘Kafala’ system abolished, but is life better for Qatari migrant workers?

Kushagra Pokhrel
Content Type
Working Paper
Center on Human Rights Education, University of Denver
Facing international criticism, in 2015, Qatar promulgated a new law regulating treatment of migrant workers – replacing the old Kafala (Sponsorship) system which tied the employment, as well as the immigration status, of a migrant worker to his or her employer. The Kafala system, which allowed the sponsor (often the worker’s employer) full control over a worker’s entrance and exit from Qatar, as well as their ability to transfer employment while in the country, was routinely accused of generating conditions of extreme worker abuse, including that of Forced Labor. Having been in effect since December 2016, the new Public Law No. 21 of 2015 does not, however, protect workers from the most serious abuses that came to typify Qatar’s construction industry as well as other low paying labor sectors. While the language has been altered – using the word Recruiter, instead of Sponsor as done previously – and there are modest alterations on job transfer and exit requirements, the new law, nonetheless, keeps the most exploitative features of old system largely intact. Under Article 8, it is still incumbent upon the Recruiter to acquire Residency Permit for its employees, with no consequences for the Recruiter for a failure to do so. Many laborers previously living under risk of deportation due to lack of Residency Permits find their situation unchanged under the new law.
Human Rights, Migration, Labor Issues, Migrant Workers
Political Geography
Qatar, Persian Gulf