Don’t Ignore Qatar’s Progress on Labor

Critics of the World Cup host nation overlook the reforms the government has undertaken.

By , the media attaché at the Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A view of the 974 Stadium, built out of shipping containers, which will host matches during the World Cup, in the Ras Abu Aboud district of the Qatari capital Doha on Oct. 20.
A view of the 974 Stadium, built out of shipping containers, which will host matches during the World Cup, in the Ras Abu Aboud district of the Qatari capital Doha on Oct. 20.
A view of the 974 Stadium, built out of shipping containers, which will host matches during the World Cup, in the Ras Abu Aboud district of the Qatari capital Doha on Oct. 20. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign Policy’s Nov. 4 morning brief entitled “Qatar’s Tainted World Cup Dreams” epitomizes much of the misguided coverage about Qatar in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, which kicked off on Sunday. The newsletter overlooked the hard facts that have been affirmed by our government, third parties, and international organizations alike.

In the years following the bid, Qatar has been heavily scrutinized for its treatment of migrant workers. The often-overlooked reality is that the World Cup has been a catalyst for Qatar to develop a robust labor program. Reforms include the introduction of a nondiscriminatory minimum wage, the removal of barriers to change jobs, and the introduction of a worker compensation fund in 2018 that has paid out at least $350 million so far.

On Nov. 1, 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recognized that Qatar has “undertaken comprehensive labour reforms to improve the conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers” which have “yielded benefits for workers, employers, and the economy more broadly.” This builds upon their 2021 report that detailed the positive impact of Qatar’s new labor legislation and implementation mechanisms.

Foreign Policy’s Nov. 4 morning brief entitled “Qatar’s Tainted World Cup Dreams” epitomizes much of the misguided coverage about Qatar in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, which kicked off on Sunday. The newsletter overlooked the hard facts that have been affirmed by our government, third parties, and international organizations alike.

In the years following the bid, Qatar has been heavily scrutinized for its treatment of migrant workers. The often-overlooked reality is that the World Cup has been a catalyst for Qatar to develop a robust labor program. Reforms include the introduction of a nondiscriminatory minimum wage, the removal of barriers to change jobs, and the introduction of a worker compensation fund in 2018 that has paid out at least $350 million so far.

On Nov. 1, 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recognized that Qatar has “undertaken comprehensive labour reforms to improve the conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers” which have “yielded benefits for workers, employers, and the economy more broadly.” This builds upon their 2021 report that detailed the positive impact of Qatar’s new labor legislation and implementation mechanisms.

These facts, although widely available, are too often ignored because they do not fit the prevailing narrative. A more balanced view would acknowledge that systemic reform does not happen overnight. Shifting the behavior of every company takes time. It would also note that Qatar has achieved in a number of years what many countries take decades to achieve. As in many countries, labor conditions are not perfect in Qatar, and there is still more work to be done. As a country, we are committed to further progress.

The references to claims that “[a]uthorities have also evicted thousands of workers living in Doha—plausibly to make room for tourists—leaving some to sleep on the streets ” is false. When a building no longer meets government regulations, it is no longer safe for people to live in. When this occurs, notifications are issued, and a process to relocate the tenants takes place. This is what has happened in the case highlighted by FP; all the workers in question were relocated to new accommodations, and there are now demolition orders in place at some of the old buildings, according to Qatar’s minister of labor, Ali bin Samikh Al-Marri.

We have never shied away from constructive criticism and have always believed in dialogue and engagement as the best tools to effect change. Qatar is dedicated to ensuring that World Cup 2022 leaves a positive human, economic, social, and environmental legacy for the country, the region, and the world.

Ali Al-Ansari is the media attaché at the Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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