DOHA: Qatar, which pledged to improve labor safety standards as 2022 World Cup construction projects get underway, was ranked among the worst violators of workers rights in a report by the International Trade Union Confederation.
The Arab Gulf country was given the lowest score of five, which places it among “the worst countries in the world to work in,” the ITUC, a group representing trade unions around the world, said in its 2014 Global Rights Index.
Authorities said last week that Qatar would amend labor laws after the death of dozens of immigrant workers on construction projects drew a storm of criticism from human rights and labor groups. Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, is expected to rely mostly on migrant labor from countries such as Nepal and India to build $200 billion of roads, stadiums, a subway system and other projects before it hosts the most-watched sporting event.
In a category five country, “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices,” the ITUC said.
U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported in September that 44 Nepalese workers had died in Qatar between June 4 and Aug. 8 amid “appalling labor abuses.” The Nepali Embassy later said 53 Nepalis had died.
Amnesty International said in a November report that workers in Qatar often weren’t paid wages, were subject to “harsh and dangerous” working conditions and “shocking standards of accommodation.” The group documented the cases of dozens of workers who were prevented from leaving the country for many months by their employers.
The ITUC also gave a score of five to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain received a score of 4, a country with “systematic violations.” It ranked countries including Uruguay, South Africa and France among the best for worker protections.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2014, on page 5.