Since winning the bid in December 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is tasked with delivering the first ever World Cup in the Middle East with hopes of changing perceptions of the Gulf countries, and to present an unforgettable tournament. A positive goal, however, is accompanied with challenges raised by the media and public opinion regarding working rights and the building of the stadiums. In addition to controversies surrounding the working environment, inaccurate representations of workers’ realities, primarily causalities, depict negative representations of Qatar’s progress towards the 2022 World Cup.
More specifically, a chart that is commonly shared among news outlets and social media indicates that between the years 2012 – 2013 there are 1,200 causalities in association to the 2022 World Cup, but further analyses reveal that this statistic is not directly related to the construction of 2022 World Cup facilities and is significantly misrepresentative of projects involved with the tournament (Ingraham, 2015; Stephenson, 2015). Despite continuous criticism, Qatar proves to have the aim for a successful World Cup at the forefront of their engagements. The most notable advancements are with securing workers’ safety and the improvement of the legal stipulations regarding worker’s rights.
An apparent obstacle in the building of stadiums for the tournament is the country’s desert temperatures. During the summer months there are working restrictions in Qatar where workers are prevented from working outside from the hours 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. Despite the working restrictions, the weather may still prove difficult and as such, workers are given cooling vests that the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), Qatar’s World Cup organizers, describe as “state-of-the-art” vests capable of reducing body temperatures by up to 15 degrees Celsius (Agence France-Presse, 2018).
Also, the SC is involved in providing workers with solar-powered cooling helmets that, similar to the cooling vests, work to reduce body temperatures. The introduction of the helmets, including the technology and design, is unique to Qatar and its usage for the World Cup is only the start of revolutionary worker equipment as the worldwide patent will improve worker safety and effectiveness internationally (Local Organizing Committee, 2016). The technological and logistical improvements to the construction of World Cup stadiums evidently improve both workers’ production abilities and their overall safety.
The physical working environment is accompanied by legal concerns for migrant workers, primarily involving the kafala system; an arrangement that manages the migrant residency and employment for the countries in the Gulf (Migrant Rights, n.d.). Negative criticism surrounding the Kafala system and the various restrictions of foreign workers is under scrutiny since the announcement of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup hosts, but Qatar is making significant adjustments to better current work relations.
Under the Kafala system, workers are subject to hand over their papers and documents to their employers which restricts the workers’ ability to freely leave the country. Qatar is leading in amending this restriction by removing the requirement for obtaining an exit visa from their employers (Harwoord, 208). Giving workers the freedom to leave Qatar at the end of their work contracts is a big step in the predicted removal of the Kafala system. The removal of the exit visa illustrates Qatar’s progressive ability to work accordingly with the demands of World Cup committees and international public concern.
The improvement in worker and country relations is furthered by the opening of an International Labour Organization (ILO) office in Doha, Qatar in April 2018. The inclusion of ILO representatives is the first step in implementing initiatives set out between the ILO and Qatar which aim to put human resources for foreign workers at the forefront of foreign work practices (International Labour Organization, 2018a). The purpose of the cooperation between Qatar and the ILO is in pursuit of improving labour related issues, including recruitment practices for migrant workers.
The positive response from Qatar in achieving the goals of the ILO demonstrates the dedication in ensuring a safe production towards the 2022 World Cup. The ILO supports Qatar in replacing the Kafala system with a contractual employment system. The removal of exit visas for foreign workers is one step of several that from the ILO as the organization strives to ensure Qatar’s ability to provide for its workers (International Labour Organization, 2018a). The implementation of workshops targeted at training employers to focus on negotiation skills, Occupational Safety and Health (OHS), labour inspection, workplace relations and staff development are additional collaborations between Qatar and the ILO which further demonstrate the cooperation between ILO and the host country (International Labour Organization, 2018b). The adjustment to the Kafala system and the implementation of labour support strengthen the claim that Qatar is committed to the rights of its migrant workers.
It is evident that criticism about migrant workers in Qatar employed for the construction of the 2022 World Cup facilities is not easily disregarded by Qatar, and instead is addressed effectively. The issue of workers’ safety due to the temperatures is met with the production of new and effectively technologies that can be utilized internationally. Also, the problematic Kafala system that is prominent in the gulf countries is being reformed exclusively in Qatar to ensure a successful World Cup by all persons involved, and issues regarding human rights and resources are being met with the opening of an ILO office in Doha. Negative attention towards migrant workers in Qatar for the involvement of the 2022 World Cup is a serious matter that Qatar resolves efficiently with alternatives that satisfy the rights and safety of the workers.
Agence France-Presse. (2018). Qatar World Cup workers given ‘cooling vests’ to combat heat. Sport 24. Retrieved from https://www.sport24.co.za/Soccer/International/qatar-world-cup-workers-given-cooling-vests-to-combat-heat-20180830
Harwood, A. (2018). Qatar 2022 World Cup will honour workers’ rights with the end of the Kafala system, predicts ITUC head. Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/qatar-2022-world-cup-workers-rights-kafala-system-migraints-middle-east-a8182191.html
Ingraham, C. (2015). (Updated) The toll of human causalities in Qatar. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/05/27/a-body-count-in-qatar-illustrates-the-consequences-of-fifa-corruption/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.67fcfba8de6c
International Labour Organization. (2018a). ILO inaugurates its first project office in Qatar. International Labour Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/beirut/media-centre/news/WCMS_627158/lang–en/index.htm
International Labout Organization. (2018b). Qatar Financial Centre, Labour Ministry and International Labour Organization join hands to enhance human-resource skills in Qatar. International Labour Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/beirut/media-centre/news/WCMS_645705/lang–en/index.htm
Local Organizing Committee. (2016). Cooled helmets developed in Qatar set to keep SC workers cool in Summer. FIFA. Retrieved form http://static.fifa.com/worldcup/
Migrant Rights (n.d.) Reform the Kafala System. Migrant Rights Org. Retrieved from https://www.migrant-rights.org/campaign/end-the-kafala-system/
Stephenson, W. (2015). Have 1,200 World Cup workers really died in Qatar? BBC News. Retrieved form https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33019838