In a move concerning Nepali community in Qatar, the Government of Qatar has announced a new minimum wage limit for Nepali migrant labor in Qatar that is less than the prescribed limit.
As a measure towards strengthening the rights and welfare of expatriates, Qatar on November 16, 2017 announced QAR 750 as a basic wage limit for all the expatriates working in the kingdom.
Surprisingly, the new basic is QAR 150 less than the minimum wage limit of QAR 900 set by the Nepali Government in 2013 for Nepalis working in Gulf countries.
On January 21, 2013, Nepal announced a provision suggesting QAR 900 as a minimum wage for its unskilled labor working in Qatar, along with QAR 1,100 and QAR 1,500 for semi-skilled and skilled labor, respectively.
The provision also requires the employers to ensure free board allowance up to QAR 300 per worker along with QAR 4,700 as food allowance for professionals.
A Bitter Response
While the international bodies like the International Labor Organization appreciate the move, the decision is sounding bitter for Nepal and a few human rights activists.
“Let’s not forget that this is an 18 percent reduction in wages from the current minimum wage set by the Nepali Government for Nepali workers going to Qatar,” tweeted Catherine Chen, a human rights activist working for a US-based charity called Humanity United, in response to the announcement by the Qatari Labor Ministry.
Kumud Khanal, former Vice-President of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Association (NAFEA) says, “Nepal should endorse QAR 750 or stop sending workers until Qatar agrees to abide by its minimum wage standard. The different policies of the labor-receiving and labor-sending nations will only complicate matters.”
According to Khanal, two such different rules would increase the use of fake work contracts.
Ganesh Gurung, a migration expert, also feels that the decisions like this would hamper the workers’ overall demand.
Nepali Government officials informed that they would discuss the issue with the Qatari higher officials maintaining Nepal’s firm stand.
Following the announcement, the Nepali labor community in Qatar is worried that the new rule might impact their basic rights causing abuse and exploitation concerns.
“There is a danger that QAR 750 will be the new normal and even companies which were paying 900 riyals will now refuse to pay more than the new minimum,” says Krishna Pun, a security guard in Qatar.
Pun, who is currently drawing around QAR 1,800, fears that his company would cut his pay. Many other workers feel the same, he adds.
While Nepal has similar wage limits for countries such as Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, Qatar is one of the key destinations hosting around 400,000 Nepali migrant labor.
However, the new wage limit will most likely add to the financial burden of the Nepali workers in Qatar, thus creating a concern for Nepalis’ immigration to Qatar.
Many Nepali workers pay high service charges to recruitment agents and the situation is almost similar in case of workers from India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
According to Amnesty International, workers pay as much as 60 percent interest on the loans they take from local moneylenders for foreign employment.
Even though countries such as Israel, South Korea and Malaysia have their own minimum wage limits, the basic wages in Qatar is less compared to other foreign destinations such as Bahrain, Malaysia, Kuwait and Oman.
This situation in Qatar exists despite the high demand for work that unskilled workers do there.
Its noteworthy that Qatar is hosting the 2022 football World Cup with most of the labor it has for construction activity are from Nepal and Bangladesh.