• 07.30.14

Being A Migrant Worker In Qatar Is Even Worse Than You Thought

A flowchart shows how workers get exploited by Qatar’s kafala system.

Being A Migrant Worker In Qatar Is Even Worse Than You Thought
[Image: Doha, Qatar via Shutterstock]

The construction boom in Qatar has proven deadly for scores of the country’s migrant workers. The International Trade Union Confederation estimates that horrendous working conditions will be responsible for 4,000 migrant worker deaths leading up to the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar’s government estimates that almost 1,000 migrants–mostly workers from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh–died between 2012 and 2013.


The Guardian, which has been investigating worker conditions in the world’s richest country for months, just released an in-depth look at the plight of exploited foreign workers in Qatar. It includes this simple, but powerful, flowchart, detailing the life of a migrant worker.

Qatar has what is called a kafala system: Employers take away migrant workers’ passports, and the workers must seek an employer’s permission to change jobs or leave the country. The result is a system of forced labor where workers are often denied wages, forced to live in crowded, unsanitary conditions, and overworked in the heat. “It is modern slavery enforced not through shackles and whips, but by fiddled contracts, missing permits, and paperwork,” the Guardian writes.

That casts a pall over the construction of any big project in Qatar, where plenty of prominent architects have taken commissions. Zaha Hadid, for her part, has declared that it is not an architect’s duty to worry about the conditions of the workers building her projects.

Read more about migrant worker conditions in Qatar from the Guardian.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.