In 2010, Qatar was awarded the World Cup by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of association football -- responsible for the organization and promotion of the World Cup. In 2018, approximately 1.12 billion watched the 2018 World Cup Finals between Croatia and France, which was won by the latter. Estimates claim that 3.572 billion people watched the World Cup in 2018.
The World Cup is by far the world's most popular sporting event. However, the 2022 World Cup is not without controversy and a slew of labor violations -- which this article will focus on. The treatment of migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka has been a hot topic since Qatar began building World Cup stadiums after being awarded the tournament (commonly countries awarded with the World Cup already have this infrastructure in place).
The Guardian published an analysis regarding the treatment of these migrant workers in February 2021, finding approximately 6,500 have died in Qatar since arriving to work on the construction of the 8 stadiums built for the World Cup. However, World Cup Chief Hassan Al-Thawadi publicly stated between 400 and 500 migrant workers have died as a result of work done in connection to the tournament. Previously, the Qatari government claimed there had only been 3 work-related deaths during the construction of stadiums. While The Guardian article does not claim each death is a result of a construction accident, their research calls into question labor conditions for those deceased migrant workers.
However, numerous investigations suggest migrant workers faced harsh working conditions in Qatar, including cases of forced labor. A 2021 Human Rights Watch found:
...Too often, migrant workers suffer wage abuses at the hands of their employers, including delayed wages, punitive and illegal wage deductions, and, most debilitating yet all too common, months of unpaid wages for long hours of grueling work.
However, despite these numerous reports, Hassan Al-Thawadi defended Qatar's treatment of migrant workers in the 2022 Netflix documentary FIFA Uncovered. Commonly, referring to 'facts on the ground' when pressured regarding any Qatari wrongdoing related to the World Cup. Al-Thawadi also claimed labor conditions were improving for migrant workers without providing evidence as to how conditions improved.
Al-Thawadi repeated the claims at the end of November 2022, stating, "I think every year the health and safety standards on the sites are improving, at least on our sites, the World Cup sites, the ones that we’re responsible for, most definitely." Al-Thawadi stopped short of providing examples of improvements, remaining steadfast regarding migrant workers' conditions in Qatar.
While migrants in the United States working on an H-1B Visa do not receive nearly the same coverage as migrant workers who build stadiums and hotels for the largest sporting event in the world -- there are several parallels between the two.
H-1B Visa holders have not perished by the thousands due to harsh working conditions; however, reports of H-1B Visa holders having pay reduced and/or delayed, or withheld completely, due to being a foreign worker without the same legal recourse as a US citizen is an unfortunate phenomenon Stop Now has uncovered during extensive research.
It will be difficult to ever know the exact number of mistreated migrant workers in Qatar during the lead-up to the World Cup or how many H 1-B Visa holders are being taken advantage of within the United States. However, there is an opportunity to uncover some of the truth behind labor abuse.
As the World Cup moves into the later stages, Stop Now will revisit the topic of labor abuses in its build-up.
STOP NOW foundation is a community of individuals seeking to support and strengthen the social good sector. We do this by matching professionals who want to donate their time and talent with resources who need those skills.