Jan 24 2013
Qatar sits like an oasis of hypertrophic capitalism amid a landscape barren in all respects except for its oil reserves. The emirate sustains itself by pumping out vast fossil fuel resources while importing human ones, in the form of legions of migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal and other Global South countries.
Labor activists say this fierce imbalance between the elite and the laboring underclass is headed for catastrophe as the country prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The event, and the massive infrastructure projects it will involve, will magnify Qatar’s international prestige as an ultra-modern kingdom, but labor and human rights activists say the country is neither ready nor willing to align its regressive labor practices with its ultra-modern development agenda.
An investigation by Equal Times, a publication supported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), documents patterns of employers and labor agencies cheating workers, deceiving them into exploitative jobs in unsafe and precarious conditions.
As with many other wealthy Gulf countries, Equal Times reports, Qatar’s economy displays stunning inequalities:
In a country where the Gross National Income per capita is well above US$ 80,000, the average migrant worker makes just US$300 a month. Migrants live in squalid conditions and have scant health and safety protection, leading to accidents at work – some of which are fatal. Migrants have no voice to demand better conditions, since they are prohibited by law from creating or joining trade unions. This is a violation of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
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