DOHA - The Gulf state of Qatar, host to the 2022 football World Cup and under pressure to improve conditions of migrant workers, pledged Sunday to introduce new labour legislation by early 2015.
The emirate's controversial "kafala" sponsorship law, which limits the rights of movement for foreign workers, would be replaced by legislation "currently under review," said the labour and social affairs ministry.
"We expect to make announcements about new legislation by early next year," it said in a statement.
Doha said in May that it would replace the sponsorship system, under which Qatari employers can prevent their foreign workers from leaving the country or changing jobs, with a new system based on employment contracts.
The exit permit that foreign workers need to leave the country, which was likened to modern-day slavery by human rights groups, is to be replaced by a system under which permission is granted automatically after a three-day grace period.
Foreign workers would also be able to change jobs at the end of their contracts, without the need for the certificate they currently require that their previous employer has no objection.
If the contract is an open-ended one, a foreign workers would be able to change jobs after five years.
Employers confiscating the passports of their workers would face tougher penalties.
"We intend to effect meaningful and lasting change for the benefit of all those who live and work in Qatar," the labour ministry said Sunday.
Qatar's treatment of its massive foreign workforce has been under the international spotlight as it launches a massive construction programme for the world football showcase in 2022.
On Thursday, football's world governing body FIFA cleared Qatar of corruption and ruled out a re-vote to decide the host of the competition despite widespread allegations of wrongdoings.
Qatar said it never doubted the "clean" record by which it won the bid to host the tournament.