Qatar is making progress in improving conditions for hundreds of thousands of construction workers and ending forced labour in the country, the Geneva-headquartered International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.
However, the real test for the Gulf state will be whether it will be able to enforce new legislation from December to reform its labour market, according to UK news agency Reuters, which cited a report by an ILO mission.
A team from the UN body, which visited Qatar in March after complaints from construction workers, said any decision to appoint an ILO commission of inquiry should be put off for a year to allow time to implement the reforms.
The report and recommendations will be debated at the ILOs governing body, spokesman Hans von Rohland told Reuters.
The ILO team has acknowledged recent measures taken by the government to improve migrants working conditions. Yet certain challenges remain and the implementation of the measures to overcome them are still under way, said the report by the team led by Ambassador of the Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva Misako Kaji, which also included representatives of governments, employers and workers groups.
A new Qatari law abolishes the sponsorship (kafala) system for migrant workers, starting from December. It will be replaced by a labour contract system, removing restrictions on worker movements. They will no longer be forced to continue a job if there is abuse or exploitation, although domestic workers are excluded from this provision, the report said.
Qatar announced labour reforms in October 2015, following international criticism by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups.
Workers groups first complained in 2014 about forced labour affecting a migrant worker population of some 1.5 million roughly 90 per cent of Qatars population.
The ILO mission, the second in two years, met the prime minister, ministers of labour and justice, the CEO of Qatar Petroleum and workers groups, mostly from the Philippines and Nepal. It visited sites including Khalifa stadium, which is a major construction site ahead of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Concerns raised by migrant workers related to the payment of wages [non-payment, late payment and/or reduction of agreed wages], passport confiscation, long hours of work ,the non-renewal of their identity cards by the employer and difficulty in transferring sponsorship, said the ILO report.
It said thousands of migrant workers were in accommodation that fell short of minimum standards, with 10-12 workers frequently sharing one small room, amid unhygienic kitchen and sanitary facilities.