Qatar’s investigation into workplace deaths misses ‘serious’ problems, said labor watchdog

An international labor watchdog on Thursday criticized Qatar’s “ineffective” investigation of workplace deaths in the Middle Eastern state ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and said that eight workers had died in four “disappointing” incidents in the Gulf state in the last six months.

The annual report from the International Labor Organization’s Occupational Safety and Health Division said only six of the 19 companies reviewed met its standards on worker protection after its survey in April.

The ILO said the investigation only included 76 of the country’s workplaces, and the government needs to “take steps to regulate and standardize” existing norms and standards.

“Several workers died in this reporting period, all at other workplaces,” the report said.

Officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ILO said Qatar’s measures to combat asbestos, contract workers, and leading to adequate staffing, training and quality health care fall short of international standards.

It also criticized the government’s slow pace in enforcing the law, especially for protecting women and unaccompanied minors. It said the government must “cautiously” consider how to make the labor law more accessible and enforceable for workers not from home countries.

Qatar took over hosting the 2022 World Cup from Australia, Japan and South Korea in 2012, becoming the first country to host the soccer showcase on this continent.

The successful 2022 bid and ensuing massive building program in the energy-rich state has helped its economy become the richest per capita in the world. While the World Cup is the World’s richest economic opportunity, it has been at the heart of Qatar’s labor practices.

Qatar has one of the highest rates of migrant labor across the world and deals with it differently from other countries. About three-quarters of Qatar’s 2.4 million people are foreign workers who help build infrastructure for the World Cup. Under contract, they don’t have the same protections as Qatari citizens.

“Working conditions for workers in Qatar are one of the most pressing questions that is faced by employers and workers in the region,” ILO head Guy Ryder said in a statement. “The Government must use the leverage that World Cup hosting represents to improve labor standards and safety in Qatar’s own workforce.”

The monitor said it wants to work more closely with the government to achieve greater access to information and education about workplace health and safety issues, especially for migrant workers. The ILO also said it would bring its monitoring to Qatar during the 2022 World Cup in an effort to protect the rights of foreign workers.

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Qatar is also under scrutiny for building power plants for the 2022 World Cup far from its border with Saudi Arabia, an archrival, and the possibility of “chronic” energy shortages.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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