World Cup host Qatar has been deemed a country of “extreme risk” when it comes to working conditions, according to a global ranking produced by British experts.
Hazardous conditions, forced labour and non-payment of wages have seen the Arab state, which is set to host the 2022 World Cup, downgraded to the category of “extreme risk” in the index produced by UK- based risk analysis company Maplecroft.
The downward slide is due to the multiple deaths of migrant workers on construction sites for the World Cup, according to Maplecroft’s 7th annual Working Conditions Index (WCI).
Qatar is among 11 countries to have moved into the category in this year’s index, which evaluated 197 countries on their minimum wage levels, working hours, and health and safety in the workplace.
Maplecroft said from 2013 to 2014 the number of countries rated as “extreme risk” rose from 49 to 60 – a 20 per cent hike – marking worsening conditions globally for workers.
Bucking the trend is fellow World Cup host Brazil, which has improved its conditions over the last year and has climbed 19 places in the ranking, Maplecroft said.
But the country, which is also hosting the Olympics, still remains at “extreme risk”, lying at 52nd, alongside Winter Olympics host Russia, which is 39th.
Qatar moved from 60th to 32rd in the list – where number one marks the country ranking the highest for risk to workers.
Of the 11 countries that moved from high to extreme risk in the index, Nigeria saw the biggest increase in risk, moving from 77th to 44th due to widespread health and safety violations and a minimum wage two-thirds below subsistence levels.
Also in the group was Egypt, which dropped 29 places to 26th, and Yemen, which went from 72nd to 42nd. Other countries to drop into the extreme risk category were: Comoros, off the coast of Africa; Madagascar; Peru; Kenya; Tanzania; Georgia and Bolivia.
Official figures have revealed that 185 Nepalese migrant workers died in Qatar last year as a result of working conditions. The International Trade Union Confederation has predicted that some 4000 migrant workers could die during the construction phase ahead of the World Cup.
Lizabeth Campbell, head of human rights at Maplecroft, said: “Severe labour exploitation suffered by Asian migrant workers in Qatar includes extremely hazardous working conditions, forced labour and non-payment of wages.
“In the run-up to the World Cup in 2022, the boom in construction of hotels, infrastructure and sports stadiums will have a deadly impact on workers if government reforms ensuring labour protections are not implemented with a sense of urgency.”
Similar concerns over conditions have surrounded Brazil, which has its own World Cup and Olympics construction sites. But Maplecroft said a strong reaction to incidents by the government had seen the country improve 19 places in the index.
“Deadly but preventable workplace tragedies have propelled working conditions into the 2013 headlines, resulting in wider scrutiny of business practices across many sectors and countries,” Ms Campbell said.
Among low-cost manufacturing countries, Bangladesh – where 1,127 people died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory last April – poses the highest risk to workers, with the only countries performing worse including Eritrea, North Korea, Syria and DR Congo.