Expat Jobs Lost in Qatar Due to COVID-19
Gas-rich Qatar’s migrant labor force faces job uncertainty due to the country’s lockdown. The small country’s two-third population is occupied by expatriates. Many are from developing countries and working on projects associated with tournament stadium construction. Employers’ unpaid wages, and strict coronavirus controlled conditions lead to deportations and detention. The expats facing withholds wages, arbitrary dismissal, and mull redundancies can spell disaster at their families who are dependent on their income.
Qatar’s migrant labor has been under limelight since it got the chance to host the 2022 World Cup, with seven new football stadiums as well as towering skyscrapers to be built by an army of foreign workers. The local nationals of the country are criticizing the labor practices in Qatar, demanding to banish the ex-pats from their region.
The condemnation by the right groups has taken initiatives to enhance worker welfare. But the lockdown of the heavily populated Industrial Area has drawn critical circumstances. Qatari officials have sealed several areas and are also calling police to save lives. They also report that they have enriched the areas with medical facilities and pledged to pay missed salaries.
COVID-19 impacts are disastrous. Houtan Homayounpour head of ILQ’s Qatar office has rightly said that mass redundancies would damage the country’s economy to a large scale by sending labors back to their homeland. However, the Qatar government is generous enough to support and think about the betterment of the ex-pats.
Qatar Government Steps
Qatar government has introduced a guarantee scheme for private employers who are affected by the coronavirus. Through the scheme, employers who meet the requirements can apply for finance to cover up to three months’ employee payroll and real estate rental fees. Moreover, following Qatar’s Labor Law all employees in isolation, quarantine, or receiving treatment will still be getting their basic salary and allowances irrespective of whether they qualify the sick leave benefits or not.
If an employee is out of the country and not able to return to Qatar, both the employer and employee should discuss working terms and conditions including the benefits. The employee has the right to refuse any adjustment to the contract. Employers can terminate their workers but this must be carried out in full compliance with the Qatar Labor Law.
About 2 million of the workforce of the energy-producing country relies on ex-pat workers mainly from Asian countries like Nepal, the Philippines, and India. However, the government is ensuring the payment of salaries, distribution of food, water, masks, medicines, sanitizers to people under lockdown sites.
The Best Decisions to be Made in This Time
Like other Gulf Arab states, Qatar has taken strict measures to control the spread of the virus, including the prohibition of non-Qataris from not only entering into their country and locale but also in shutting public venues. The government has also taken remarkable initiatives to support the expats.
Like other Gulf countries, Qatar is also trying to reduce its dependence on expatriate laborers, and have begun to train their national labor forces to take larger roles in the economy.