Qatar's treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been under the spotlight since it was awarded the hosting of football's 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Under Qatar's "kafala" (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers must obtain their employers' permission - a no-objection certificate (NOC) - before changing jobs, a law that rights activists say ties their presence in the country to their employers and could lead to abuse and exploitation.
However, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, released on Monday, said the country's "efforts to protect migrant workers' right to accurate and timely wages have largely proven unsuccessful".
"Despite a handful of reforms in recent years, withheld and unpaid salaries, as well as other wage abuses, are persistent and widespread across at least 60 employers and companies in Qatar," the report added. HRW said most of the migrant workers it spoke to for the report experienced salary delays, non-payment of dues and end-of-service benefits. Some said "employers made arbitrary deductions from their salaries".
"This is a pervasive issue, not just in Qatar but across the Gulf. It is important to stress that our report does not say nor intend to imply that all migrant workers in Qatar suffer wage abuses. Instead, it seeks to show that they work against a backdrop that both enables widespread wage abuse and fails to adequately protect them from it when it occurs."
HRW's Zayadin said while "Qatar has made many promises to migrant workers over the past several years and has introduced some reforms", they were not going far enough.
"Time and again, migrant workers in Qatar have been disappointed to find that the marketed reforms have done little to improve their lived realities in the country," she added. "If Qatar truly wants these reforms to reverberate on the ground and to make a difference in the lives of those they aim to target, they need to abolish kafala in its entirety, allow workers to join trade unions, and introduce reforms that address harmful business practices."
In June, Al Jazeera published a report on how the coronavirus shutdown affected Qatar's migrant workers. It spoke to hundreds of workers employed by private companies in the country and found that most were in a "no work, no pay" situation, struggling to survive despite the government's stimulus package. Al Jazeera spoke to numerous affected migrant workers, including driving instructors, salon staff, baristas, chefs, private taxi drivers, small business owners, and hotel and hospitality staff. Most of them have not received any assistance from their employers and are too afraid to complain.
Al Jazeera has learned that despite a lot of coronavirus-enforced restrictions being lifted as part of Qatar's four-phase plan to reopen the country and economy, a number of private sponsors are still not paying staff, despite making them work.
"I'm working six hours daily all week but getting paid just over seven riyals [$1.9] per hour," staff from another cleaning company told Al Jazeera. "Because, until now, the company is still not operating fully, they said they are unable to pay us what the contract says.
"My last salary was paid in March. Since then, the company has not given us anything, not even a single riyal. We are only able to survive through private donations of rice and food items."
Some workers said they have not been paid since January. Others are being paid a fraction of their salaries. Workers have also told Al Jazeera some employers transfer salaries into the workers' bank accounts but force the employees to hand over the ATM cards before withdrawing the amount.
Workers are also losing faith in the system due to the barriers to accessing justice that exist in Qatar echoing the fear among migrant workers of repercussions if they complain. The announcement of reforms or a report means little.