Wage exploitation could be stamped out if electronic payments to migrant construction workers would be made mandatory in Qatar, according to a new report.
Engineers Against Poverty (EAP), a UK-based engineering development non-governmental organisation, argued electronic payments would provide workers with the evidence needed to prove that they have not been paid, and would allow them to seek redress.
"Non-payment and late payment of wages is one of the biggest concerns to migrant workers," said Jill Wells, a research team leader for EAP.
"It is also a potential source of disruption and delay to projects and therefore a major risk to government clients and their project management consultants."
The organisation launched its report, which was based on anonymous interviews with 10 main contractors and five project management consultants from various countries, at a roundtable meeting in Doha with key industry stakeholders.
The study outlined some preliminary findings and recommendations based on interviews with a number of contractors and project management consultants operating in Qatar.
The interviewees were responding to the Mandatory Standards for migrant workers from leading client the Qatar Foundation (QF), which are likely to be rolled out across the country, and which place more responsibility for compliance with contractors.
EAP said the firms interviewed for the research welcomed the new standards and agreed that main contractors could do more to ensure workers are paid properly, potentially by paying workers directly when subcontractors fail to do so as well as adopting electronic payments.
The NGO also stressed that taking steps to improve the flow of cash down the subcontracting chain is also vital.
In addition, the report also recommends that the government of Qatar should leverage its position with labour sending countries whose economies are heavily dependent on remittances from migrant workers, and pressure these governments to step up efforts to address "corruption and exploitation" in the recruitment business.