Qatar junks kafala; benefits OFWs

The government of Qatar has abolished the “kafala” system in the hiring and employment of migrant workers, a move described by the labor department as “a giant step towards improving the work condition of Filipino workers” in the Arab state.

The kafala is an employment sponsorship system used to monitor migrant laborers working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in Gulf Cooperation Council member states and a few neighbouring countries, namely Bahrain, Kuwait. The system requires migrant workers to get permission from their employers should they decide to change jobs.

“We wish to thank the state of Qatar for this significant reform in their employment laws. This is a giant step to improve the work conditions of migrant workers, especially our OFWs,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Qatar, Bello said the Qatari government recently enacted Decree Law Nos. 18 and 19 of 2020 amending some provisions of Labor Law No. 14 and 21 series of 2004. The new laws allow all migrant workers to change jobs before the end of their contract without first having to obtain a “No Objection Certificate “ (NOR) from their current employer, and provide greater clarity regarding termination of employment.

POLO said these laws protect the rights of both employers and employees and facilitate the employer change process.

These amendments, Bello said, are beneficial to OFWs in Qatar, particularly those who have been out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said OFWs are now given more flexibility and protection to seek better work opportunities.

Also included in the amendments, Bello said, is the increase in the number of labor dispute resolution committees, in an effort to tackle the number of labor disputes, facilitate workers’ access to their rights, and expedite legal proceedings.

According to POLO, Qatar’s new laws are meant to attract the desired combination of migrant workers, protect their rights, and ensure their safety pursuant to its human development goals contained in Qatar’s 2030 National Vision.

POLO added that with the introduction of labor reform package, Qatar promises to expand its labor market in a manner that drives competition, boosts investments in the local economy, and drives economic growth.

Qatar is host to some 241,000 OFWs, the fourth largest destination of land-based Filipino workers in the Middle East next to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.

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