Qatar scheme to pay migrants on time

DOHA • Qatar officially launches one of its most "significant" labour reforms today to guarantee migrant workers' wages, but rights groups are concerned over implementation of the new regulations.

The Wage Protection System (WPS) aims to ensure migrant labourers, many working on 2022 World Cup-related projects, will finally receive their pay on time. Under the system, workers will be paid either twice a month or monthly, and the wages electronically transferred direct to their bank accounts.

Failure to pay wages on time, especially for blue-collar workers, has been one of the biggest complaints voiced by rights groups against firms in the energy-rich Gulf state. A 2013 academic study, Portrait Of Low-income Migrants In Contemporary Qatar, found that about a fifth of migrant workers were "sometimes, rarely or never" paid on time.

Today, a six-month grace period for businesses to ready themselves for the electronic payment system expires. From today, firms that fail to pay staff on time could face fines of up to 6,000 Qatari riyals (S$2,300) and be banned from recruiting new staff, and bosses potentially sent to jail. Inspection teams will monitor the new system and identify any firms not complying with the regulations.

The WPS is overseen by the Labour Ministry, which has pointed to it as proof of Qatar's commitment to labour reform. In May, the ministry cited the WPS as an example of the "significant changes" being introduced in response to criticism of its labour practices since the controversial decision to let Qatar host football's biggest tournament. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Qatar scheme to pay migrants on time'. Print Edition | Subscribe