The awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar shed the light on the living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar (Nigel Crocombe, 2004). Since many stadiums will need to be built to accommodate the football tournaments, much attention has been given to the migrant workers hired from developing countries to work in the construction sector. Journalists and analysts agreed that their working and living conditions needed to be improved, especially since Qatar is one of the richest countries when it comes to GDP per capita. Reports from Non-Governmental Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and International organizations such as the International Labor Organization and the UN Human Rights Council focus their recommendations on the role the public section could play in improving the living conditions of migrants in Qatar (see for instance Amnesty International reports from 2013, 2014, 2015; for the HCR, see Francois Crepeau, 2014). Another independent analysis from DLA Piper also provided recommendations (2014). These reports all call for a complete overall of the sponsorship laws (the « Kafala » system, which is believed to put the employee at risk of forced labor), the awarding of new political and labor rights, an easier access to justice, and the inclusion of domestic workers under the labor law. All of these measures are directed at the Qatari government. This presentation takes a different approach and focuses on the role the private sector can play in this respect, based on recent initiatives from private organizations and companies as well as the civil society. No previous study chose to focus on the role of the private sector in improving living and working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. As the World Cup is getting closer, however, this issue is likely to be more scrutinized.

These private initiatives include for instance the Qatar Foundation's Mandatory standards for Migrant Workers. These standards are embedded in every contract to ensure compliance with welfare standards over and above legal standards. Oil and gas companies have also adopted their own standards, although they are not always made public. They also have included worker welfare initiatives as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility agendas. In this respect, we can see a clear difference between multinational corporations and local companies such as QatarGas and RasGas. Civil society's initiatives include « Save the Hamalis » on Facebook, dedicated to providing basic needs to the homeless workers of the wholesale market and Souk Waqif. Other initiatives are providing an important support to the less fortunate.

After reviewing these initiatives, we will scrutinize what motivates these entities to actively seek higher standards for migrant workers. This poster will conclude that drivers of change ultimately will come from every entity's ultimate stakeholder: the public. Companies and private institutions are confronted with increasing public scrutiny and threat to their reputation. This public pressure forces them to prevent any incidents and undertake measures to mitigate reputational risk. As we will see, this driver of change have proven very efficient.


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