Qatar could increase the minimum wage for migrant workers by the end of 2018, unions predicted Monday, as the 2022 World Cup host seeks to push through labour reforms.

It would be the first change to the monthly wage since its introduction by the gas-rich Gulf state last November.

“By the end of the year  we expect a new minimum wage to be set, that’s good news,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Burrow did not name a figure but said the new wage would be calculated by assessing  a “basket of goods”.

She was speaking after meeting Qatar’s labour minister, Issa al-Jufali al-Nuaimi, and other government officials in Doha over the past two days.

The minimum wage was set at 750 riyals a month ($206, 170 euro) on its introduction.

In addition to the salary, labourers receive free accommodation, food and healthcare plans, covered by employers.

The 750-riyal figure has been criticised as too low.

“We believe it is not good enough due to the cost of living,” said Burrows.

The introduction of a minimum wage was among a package of major changes announced last year by Qatar after signing a  three-year programme of technical cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

That agreement headed off potentially embarrassing plans by the ILO to open an inquiry into Qatar’s treatment of workers.

The UN labour agency opened its first office in Doha on Sunday.

Among other proposed reforms is an end to Qatar’s “kafala” system preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country without permission from their employer under a contentious exit visa system.

An announcement on exit visas is expected within weeks.

Since being controversially chosen to host the World Cup, Qatar has been routinely accused of forcing workers to toil in conditions critics have likened to modern-day slavery. – Agence France-Presse

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