FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed joy at the announcement of ground-breaking law changes that should improve the rights of workers in Qatar, host nation of the next World Cup.
It was confirmed on Sunday that the Emir of Qatar had abolished certain restrictions in place for migrant workers in the country, with two new laws passed by authorities.
The changes mean workers are no longer unable to change jobs without their employer’s permission, while a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal – plus basic living allowances for some workers – has been introduced.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International hopes these steps will “strike at the heart of the abusive kafala system”, a practice that requires so-called unskilled labourers to have a sponsor – predominantly their employer – in the country.
The kafala system had been widely criticised by campaigners for allowing some employers to exploit workers.
Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, though their selection was shrouded in allegations of corruption, while the country’s use – and reported exploitation – of workers in the meantime has led to moral objection to the tournament and uncomfortable questions for FIFA.
But world football’s governing body sees these changes as a significant step in creating a positive legacy and lasting change in the region.
“We sincerely congratulate the State of Qatar on this significant step,” Infantino said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Since the FIFA World Cup 2022 was awarded to Qatar, there has been a major collective effort from the local authorities, our partner the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] to bring about positive change, and we are really pleased to see that this has materialised into concrete major progress in the area of workers’ rights.
“Well before kick-off, this important milestone demonstrates the capacity of the FIFA World Cup to foster positive change and build a lasting legacy.
“There is definitely still room for further progress, and we will continue to work closely with the authorities and all stakeholders to promote a progressive agenda that should be of long-term benefit to all workers in Qatar, whether involved in the preparation of the event or not.”