Qatar not reporting all work-linked deaths: ILO – The Himalayan Times – Nepal’s No.1 English Daily Newspaper

Qatar not reporting all work-linked deaths: ILO - The Himalayan Times - Nepal's No.1 English Daily Newspaper


Qatar is not adequately investigating and reporting worker deaths including unexplained fatalities among seemingly healthy labourers, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said today.

The small but wealthy Gulf state, where foreigners make up the majority of the population, has faced scrutiny over worker conditions in the run-up to hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup next November.

Data collected at government-run trauma centres and ambulances in 2020 showed 50 workers died and more than 500 were severely injured, the ILO said.

“Most were suffered by migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and India, mainly in the construction industry.

Falls from height and road traffic accidents were the top causes of severe injuries, followed by falling objects on worksites,” the report said.

Approximately two-thirds of severe occupational injuries and three-quarters of mild-to-moderate occupational injuries affect workers from these three countries. While official data on the nationality of the workforce is not published, workers from these countries make up the vast majority of workers in the construction sector and other hazardous jobs, as per the report.

The ILO said numbers could be higher as authorities don’t classify all work-related deaths as such, including unexplained deaths among healthy workers and heat-related fatalities.

That data gap should be addressed, with better injury investigations, Max Tuñón, head of the ILO’s Qatar office, told Reuters.

Qatar’s labour ministry said in a statement that ‘no other country has come so far on labour reform in such a short amount of time, but we acknowledge that there is more work to be done’. It said it was reviewing the ILO recommendations.

In August, Amnesty International criticised Qatar for failing to investigate thousands of unexplained deaths.

A widely-reported Guardian newspaper analysis in February concluded 6,500 South Asian migrants had died in Qatar since 2010. However, Tuñón cautioned that Qatar worker death data is frequently reported without necessary nuance.

“The [Guardian’s] number includes all deaths in the migrant population … without differentiation between migrant workers and the general migrant population, let alone fatalities that resulted from occupational injuries,” the ILO said.

Qatar has introduced several labour reforms in recent years, including tougher rules to protect workers from heat and raising the minimum wage.

The ILO has called for better quality and more accurate data collection, with more efforts to investigate injuries and fatalities that may be work-related but are not currently categorised as such. This will ensure workers and their family members receive due compensation in case of occupational injuries. Such investigations should be carried out by medical professionals as well as by labour inspectors.

The Ministry of Public Health should also set up a national integrated platform that pulls together timely and reliable occupational injury data, the report says.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.

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