Qatar is set to introduce a major labour law reform to ensure thousands of workers building venues for the 2022 World Cup are paid on time, after complaints by rights groups.
The announcement by Qatari government on Thursday comes before the international spotlight is bound to fall on Qatar again as FIFA officials visit Doha early next week to finalise a date for the tournament.
The changes by the future hosts of football’s biggest tournament, approved by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, will see workers get paid at least once a month and in some cases every fortnight.
The move could head off some criticism of Qatar which has come under mounting international pressure to improve conditions for migrant labourers working on projects for the World Cup.
Under the proposal, wages will be paid through direct bank transfers which should, in theory, make it easier to track those employers that do not comply with the new law.
It is not yet clear when the reforms will be introduced but employers will have six months to implement them.
If they do not, they could face up to one month in prison as well as a fine of up to $1,650.
Non-payment of migrant workers, especially those in the construction sector, has become a sensitive issue for Qatar.
Human Rights Watch HRW’s Qatar researcher, Nicholas McGeehan, gave a cautious welcome to the changes announced in Doha.
“Of course it’s good,” he told AFP news agency. “It is a positive step as long as it is properly enforced.”
He said the reform would also impact on a “very substantial number of workers” across the Qatari economy, not just those in construction.
The Gulf state, which sits on the world’s third largest gas reserves, is seeking to become a global leader in sporting events, hosting the handball World Cup last month and is expected to bid for the Summer Olympics.