Qatar, which will host the 2022 football World Cup, said Wednesday it will abolish its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers as international criticism mounts over their treatment. 
“The relationship will be redefined as between employee and employer instead of sponsor and sponsored,” the interior ministry said on Facebook.
The sponsorship system  “will be replaced with a system based on employment contracts,” as part of a package of labour reforms, said a statement released at a press conference in Doha.
Officials said that Qatar will be introducing a draft law to enact the labour reforms but gave no timeframe for when the new law might be implemented.
Sponsorship systems for foreign workers exist in most Gulf countries,  which employ millions of foreigners, especially from Asia. The system has been strongly criticised by human rights groups.
The reforms will also end the long-standing requirement that foreign workers obtain their employer’s consent  before leaving the country.
“The current exit permit system, which requires the employers’ consent for an employee to leave the country, will now be replaced with an automated system through the ministry of interior,” the statement said.
During a press conference held to announce the new measures, the interior ministry posted live updates on its facebook and twitter accounts.
“[The no objection certificates] which currently regulate transfer of employees will be replaced with an employment contract system. If the employment contract is for a fixed term, the employee may transfer to another employer at the end of that term. If the contact is for a an indefinite term, the employee may transfer after five years from date of the contract,” it said.
That statement was shared by more than 1,800 people on facebook within hours of the announcement.
Passport confiscation, a widely used practice in the Gulf,  will continue to be banned, with fines on employers who are found to confiscate passports increasing from QR10,000 to QR50,000.
Exit permits for foreign workers will be issued by the ministry of interior.
Qatar’s treatment of its massive foreign workforce has been under the international spotlight as it launches a massive construction programme for the infrastructure for the world football showcase in 2022.