Interview: Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al Khulaifi
How successful have the government’s Qatarisation efforts been, and what new steps may be taken?
ABDULLAH SALEH MUBARAK AL KHULAIFI: Qatarisation has been in place for over a decade and has been implemented in the banking, financial services and industrial sectors, as well as numerous other areas within the private sector. The figure approved by the cabinet is a 20% minimum, which more than two-thirds of private sector companies in Qatar have exceeded. The ministry annually contacts those who have not complied. We work with firms as opposed to penalising them, which means we do not impede upon their business but nominate candidates from our unemployment list. We have found that the majority of private sector companies want more Qataris and contact us to get more nominees for potential employment. Given the success to date, there is currently a proposal to raise the Qatarisation rate to 25%.
What is the ministry doing to help change Qataris perceptions regarding jobs in the private sector?
AL KHULAIFI: This is a dilemma the ministry has been facing for the past three years – since the substantial increases in the government pay scheme. Periodically, throughout the year, in conjunction with the private sector, we host career days. The turn-out we receive for Qataris who want to work within these companies is huge, and we have been quite successful in getting nationals into the private sector. One of the things we have to show Qataris is that there are also very attractive salaries and packages within the private sector, not just in the public sector. We believe the private sector must grow in parallel to the public sector for the country’s economic development and growth. This is a challenge we will continue to address.
What measures are being enacted to protect the welfare of workers in Qatar?
AL KHULAIFI: There are four legislative matters currently under way at the ministry in this regard. The first, which has been finished, is amending labour laws to oblige private companies to directly wire transfer their employees’ salaries to banks or exchange offices. Once the law is implemented it will be gradually rolled out starting in November 2014 and covering all companies in Qatar within one year. There is a QR2000 ($548) penalty per labourer, per day for delaying payments.
Secondly, in terms of increasing and monitoring labour laws, we have increased our inspection staff from 150 to 240 and expect to reach 300 by the end of 2014. They randomly inspect housing, health and safety on companies’ premises. If any violations are discovered, firms are blacklisted and cannot receive visas until the violations are resolved. Thirdly, there was a ministerial decree issued in 2014 that labourers should not be working out in the sun from 11.00am-3.00pm from mid-June until the end of August. In 2014 more than 50 companies were penalised for violating this regulation. Finally, the Labour Relations Department has installed interactive kiosks that offer seven languages and allow employees to file complaints. We have also hired translators to assist workers with their complaints and have translated Qatar’s labour guidelines into several languages, which are provided to labourers before they arrive so that they know what their rights are.
How will the proposed changes to the kafala, or sponsorship, system impact the operational capacity of employers in the country?
AL KHULAIFI: Changes to the kafala system, which cover the entry and departure of foreign nationals, fall under the purview of the Ministry of Interior. Our only input concerning labour is that residency will be contract based. Once the contract expires, the labourer will be free to change employers or leave the country. If during the duration of a contract an employee wants to leave, they can apply online through the Ministry of Interior and within 72 hours they will be given an exit permit. These changes have yet to be implemented and are currently awaiting the approval of the Shura Council, which I expect to be granted sometime in 2015.
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