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Rights groups criticize Qatar’s ‘very low’ $200 minimum wage

This file photo taken on May 4, 2015 shows foreign laborers working on the construction site of the al-Wakrah football stadium, one of the Qatar's 2022 World Cup stadiums, walking back to their accommodation at the Ezdan 40 compound after finishing work on May 4, 2015, in Doha's Al-Wakrah southern suburbs. (AFP)
LONDON: Qatar’s new minimum wage of less than $200 a month is insufficient to meet the needs of migrant workers living in the Gulf state, rights groups say.
Qatari authorities on Thursday introduced a temporary monthly minimum wage, the latest in a series of reforms amid widespread criticism over labor rights.
“As an initial figure that does seem very low,” said Mustafa Qadri, an expert in Gulf labor rights and executive director of Equidem Research, a human-rights consultancy.
“There should be a living wage that allows workers to live and work in dignity in Qatar.”
Qatar has been subject to international scrutiny over alleged ill-treatment of migrant workers in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Rights groups are concerned that the temporary minimum wage falls short as a living wage, said Mariam Bhacker, project manager for Gulf construction and migrant workers at the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.
“Initial reactions from the human rights community is that the $200 amount seems low given the high cost of living in Qatar and the high interest on hefty recruitment fees that workers often pay to get to Qatar.
“Workers rely on their salaries to repay these loans.”
“The permanent rate will almost certainly need to be higher to constitute a living wage for most workers in Qatar.”
Qatari Labor Minister Issa Al-Nuaimi told AFP that a temporary minimum wage of 750 riyals ($197) a month will be introduced with immediate effect while officials work on setting a permanent rate. Migrant workers will also be entitled to accommodation, food and health care covered by their employers.
James Lynch, deputy program director at Amnesty International, told Arab News that the minimum wage was below that found in many expat workers’ countries of origin.
“We encourage the government to ensure that this review (into the permanent minimum wage), which should be carried out promptly in consultation with the ILO and other key stakeholders, takes account of the minimum salaries specified by migrant workers’ countries of origin — some of which are above 750 riyals — ensures that the minimum wage is sufficient to allow migrant workers to live in dignity,” he said. 

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