What Qatar’s migrant workers have to say about the 2022 World Cup

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(Global Post) The roads in the Sailiya labor camp are littered with construction rubble and cast-aside couches. Far from the glistening high rises and 5-star hotels of Doha, workers live jammed together without running water or sewage pipes. Tens of thousands of contract laborers, mostly from South Asia, live in company housing here out of sight of wealthy Qataris and foreign business investors. Because the land is owned by private companies, the camps lack city services. Electricity comes from small generators belching pollution. Tankers periodically deliver drinking water, and truck hoses suck sewage from latrines. Four Sri Lankans emerge from a wooden shack that they share for housing. They work as construction laborers in the city center for 8-12 hours a day in 105 degree heat. One says he earns the equivalent of $330 per month, typical pay for unskilled workers.  Read more here.

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7 responses to “What Qatar’s migrant workers have to say about the 2022 World Cup

  1. This article highlights one of the main arguments we’ve been having in class, especially the line between a rational choice and exploitation. One of the things I’ve struggled most with as we’ve been discussing examples like this is how conditioned we are in the West to immediately deem sweatshop labor as immoral. Nevertheless, banning sweatshop labor outright doesn’t seem moral necessarily either, especially if doing so deprives workers of opportunities to make themselves and their families better off. As the article cites, “Indeed, workers continue to flock to Qatar and other Gulf countries because they earn much more there than in their hometowns in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka or other developing countries. Their wages often allow them to build houses back home and pay for their children’s education.”

    The main argument that seems to arise then is that these migrant workers perhaps don’t have full information about the nature of the positions, and perhaps their vulnerability makes these options seem like the only options. Moreover, when employers limit these workers’ freedom to make alternative decisions, there seems to be a case for exploitation. For example, “the labor contractor who hired [the content Kenyan worker] consistently pays wages 2-3 weeks late, he says, making it difficult to buy food and other necessities.” This information likely wasn’t made available for the worker before he made the decision, and thus this could be exploitation. What I get from this is that anything that deprives workers of their freedom to make choices and choose better options is exploitative, especially the practice of employers holding the passports of their employees.

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  2. At first I was skeptical about whether or not this was exploitation simply because it would seem that the actors are rational choosers who chose to work for low pay because they have little to no skills. But the fact that once they enter the agreement, their choices become limited. The policy of taking away passports makes this a clear example of worker exploitation. Poor working conditions by western standards aren’t necessarily bad because they could be the best of the limited choices available.

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  3. This story is the typical example of worker exploitation that we discussed this semester. Although sad this is the truth reality of what several workers around the world face. To hear that the hard workers of Qatar are building and/or working at the 5 star hotels in Qatar to then have to live in a construction rubble filled labor camp is simply a slap in the face. When reading this one asks themselves, why would workers agree to these conditions. The article in fact answers this question saying that workers flock to Qatar to earn more money then they would have the opportunity to make in their hometown.

    Reading this article made me think of the women working day in and day out in the maquiladoras in Mexico. They too have no other option but to work in bad conditions for little money while at the same time not being able to strike against the companies they work for because they are easily replaceable. Learning about situations as these simply makes me wish there was more that I could do to help their situation.

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  4. The Kafala employment system in Qatar has been under scrutiny ever since its inception in the early 1930s. In its early incarnation, it was in the best tradition of Arab hospitality, but now the system is heavily exploited by the rich and elites that runs it. It is a system that once you enter, you are thereby no longer allowed to leave for neither better employment nor family reasons nor health issues or conditions. The retention of passports and identity documents has, in many instances, led to forced labour situations. Under such conditions, migrants can be forced to work in arduous conditions for longer hours than envisaged by the law, without overtime payments. They are often deprived of weekly rests, annual leaves or home leave. Many have even complained of harassment. Aware of such atrocities, Fifa has yet to take any action since the last couple of World Cups as billions will be raked in by them. Overall, the world needs to know that this system has to end and that the exploitation of million of immigrant workers has to stop.

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  5. Reading this article felt a bit like listening to a broken record. Yet again, there is a somewhat developing nation, who despite receiving global pressure to improve human rights, has been slow to do so. Although not as extreme, I believe this situation has many of the same key issues as that in the Rana Plaza incident. In both cases, although the government tried to implement laws to give the workers more rights, the actual implementation of those rights is severely lacking. Clearly, one reason for this is the lack of policing power that these governments hold. Once they create new legislation, nothing changes in the businesses that are being targeted unless they are held accountable. Unfortunately, this requires that the government go and inspect these businesses. However, given the country’s general lack of resources, this is often not a plausible reality. Furthermore, many of the large business owners who are supposed to be inspected are often corrupt. They will often bribe government officials, or in many cases, they run in many of the same circles as government officials. Although the situation in Qatar may not be as deadly as it was in Bangladesh, the international attention that will continue to build as the World Cup draws nearer will put pressure on the country and these businesses to change.

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  6. So many countries are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on securing bids for the Olympics and World Cups, and they end up having such a bad negative impact on their economy. Qatar has the money to spend on the infrastructure, but there is a clear mismatch with the amount of labor they have available, which is leading to these strange and dangerous working conditions. Our new global economy has brought about new challenges with workers that are coming in from poor countries, as well as increased global interest in these events. While for the short few months during these events, the eyes of the world are focused on the host country, it often has negative future implications. Greece is still trying to recover from all of the money they spent on their Olympics in 2004, and Brazil received a lot of backlash from paying for these huge stadiums while they can’t feed a large portion of their population. Sports play such a large part in the global culture, that it can sometimes cloud our economic decision making.

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  7. Isn’t all labor considered to be exploitive to a certain extent? Of course, this situation in Qatar is in the extreme, but what other options are available to these people? They can return to their native country to face starvation. There are others that will take their place at any moment. I think the world can be a very desperate place. Exploitation is an ongoing worldwide epidemic, and we as Americans should not cast the first stone. Ever own a pair of Nike’s? Shop at Walmart? Until we can 3-D print every consumer item, or have robotics build our structures, someone is going to be compromising their health and welfare to provide goods and services to people who want them. It sounds harsh, but I think its an unavoidable reality.

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