Qatar has been named among 11 countries to be downgraded to "extreme risk" for working conditions, according to a new global index by Maplecroft.
The downgrading of the Gulf state follows numerous reports of hazardous and sometimes fatal conditions experienced by migrant workers on construction sites.
The number of countries rated as "extreme risk" in Maplecroft’s annual Working Conditions Index (WCI), which evaluates 197 countries on their minimum wage levels, working hours, and health and safety in the workplace, rose from 49 to 60 between 2013 and 2014.
"This signifies a worsening global landscape for workers, especially migrants, relating to wider labour related issues, including trafficking and forced and bonded labour," Maplecroft said in a statement.
"The decline of Qatar (60th) into the ‘extreme risk’ category of the Working Conditions Index highlights the potential reputational risks for companies working in the country," the statement said, adding that 185 Nepalese migrant workers are reported to have died in 2013 as a result of working conditions on projects.
Allegations of forced labour in Qatar have increased, as scrutiny from the media and NGOs has intensified. Following an October 2013 visit to Qatar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants noted a lack of labour law enforcement and advised companies to undertake greater due diligence in monitoring worker conditions.
Of the 11 countries that fell from "high" to "extreme risk" in the index, Nigeria saw the biggest increase in risk.
Egypt dropped 29 places to 26th, Qatar went from 60th to 32rd and Yemen 72nd to 42nd. Comoros (39th), Madagascar (50th), Peru (54th), Kenya (55th), Tanzania (56th), Georgia (59th) and Bolivia (60th) were also big fallers.
“Deadly, but preventable, workplace tragedies have propelled working conditions into the 2013 headlines, resulting in wider scrutiny of business practices across many sectors and countries,” said Maplecroft’s head of human rights, Lizabeth Campbell.
“In addition to the potential for reputational damage and supply chain disruptions, these disasters have prompted serious questions regarding corporate responsibility, which have forced this issue high up the risk register for many multinational companies.”
Maplecroft’s Working Conditions Index has been developed to enable multi-national companies to identify the reputational and operational risks arising from the prevalence and severity of sub-standard working conditions across the world.