Fair recruitment to the fore in Qatar

Fair recruitment features prominently in the technical cooperation programme signed between the International Labour Organization and the State of Qatar. Alix Nasri, Labour Migration and Employment Specialist based at the ILO Project Office in Doha explains what is being done.

News | 06 February 2019
Representatives from the construction industry and labour recruiters map out risks and solutions in the recruitment process

What are ILO’s fair recruitment priorities in Qatar?

We are working in close partnership with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) to drive fair recruitment in supply chains. The priority is to ensure that workers do not pay any fees or related costs for their recruitment either in their country of origin or in Qatar and are fully aware about their working conditions before migrating. To do that we need a rethink of how the recruitment process is taking place as for many years the global practice has been for migrant workers to pay. 

In order to achieve this goal, it is essential to work at a number of different levels simultaneously. This includes reviewing and improving laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms; engaging with employers and recruiters in different sectors to support the transition towards fair business practices; and ensuring that workers are protected and have access to adequate dispute settlement mechanisms should they be needed.

All our work is based on the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment, which were adopted in 2016 at a Tripartite Meeting of Experts bringing together representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations. These help orient implementation of fair recruitment practices on the ground through various interventions and policy tools.

What steps are being taken?

ADLSA and ILO have started an ambitious programme. We are working with recruiters in countries of origin to make sure they monitor their entire recruitment chain back to the village where workers are recruited. This means developing controls to monitor sub-agents or decentralizing the business structure to eliminate risks of non-compliance at each step of the process. We are engaging with recruiters in Qatar to ensure they have written agreements with their partner recruiters in countries of origin, pay for those recruitment services and conduct adequate due diligence before and during their contractual relationships.

We also need to make sure that employers are aware of the benefits of fair recruitment and are actively practicing it. Contracts between employers and recruiters need to clearly reflect that recruitment fees and related costs will be borne by the employer. If employers are paying the recruiters why should workers also pay?

A major conference held in October 2018 in collaboration with ADLSA, Qatar Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) brought together representatives of some 300 companies to share experiences on the benefits of the fair recruitment model. These efforts will intensify this year with several more events planned with the private sector.

ILO Technical Specialist Alix Nasri discusses fair recruitment at a major event held in Doha in October 2018

How are you making those steps sustainable?

ADLSA and the ILO are establishing pilot interventions covering the entire recruitment process, to demonstrate that fair recruitment is possible and that good practices can be replicated quickly. Pilots started in the construction sector in 2018 and we hope to share this model and the tools that have been developed with the rest of the sector. Plans are also underway to replicate this approach in the hospitality and oil and gas sectors in 2019.

How to create a level playing field for companies?

Qatar has very good legislation in place which clearly states that workers should not pay any fees for their recruitment. The next step is to work with ADLSA and other key stakeholders to reinforce the legislative framework by introducing transparent recruitment fees and cost analysis into all project tenders. This will help ensure that companies bidding for contracts as well as their subcontractors pay all recruitment fees and related costs and that recruitment agencies involved are licensed and practice fair recruitment.

We are also collaborating closely with the government to build the capacity of enforcement officials and to review recruitment monitoring mechanisms. The key is for the legal framework to effectively drive change on the ground.

How can workers be empowered to make the right choices and avoid deception?

An important initiative is the recent establishment of Qatar Visa Centres by the government of Qatar in countries of origin, which ILO is supporting. Any workers migrating to Qatar will go to these centres to carry out their medical tests, receive an electronic visa and sign employment contracts. This will help eliminate deception at the recruitment phase and provides the ideal opportunity to create awareness amongst workers of their rights, obligations and what living and working in Qatar will be like.

Workers who are recruited fairly and know what to expect will be able to make the transition to this new work environment far more successfully. This is what our programme is about. Demonstrating that fair recruitment is not only the right thing to do but also benefits workers, employers and governments alike.

For more information about the ILO’s work on fair recruitment in Qatar contact Alix Nasri at nasri@ilo.org or see www.ilo.org/qatar-office