06 March 2014
Qatar’s response to a call by international trade unions to freeze its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers injured in a gas leak and separate gas explosion is likely to indicate the Gulf state’s willingness to reform or abolish a scheme that critics denounce as a form of modern slavery and Qataris see as a protective wall against loss of control of their country.
Qatar has been fighting an uphill battle to limit substantial damage to its reputation in the wake of its winning in 2010 of the right to host the 2022 World Cup as a result of criticism of the working and living conditions of its foreign workers. The number of foreign workers, already a majority of the tiny state’s population, is expected to rise substantially as construction of World Cup-related infrastructure kicks into high gear.
Qatar has responded to the criticism, fuelled by reports of annually hundreds of deaths of predominantly Asian workers allegedly as a result of working conditions, by issuing improved safety, security and welfare standards, and pledging to step up enforcement of existing rules and regulations.
… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies(RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author ofThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccerblog and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Print
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