File this under the category of be careful what you wish for.
Four years ago, Qatar emerged triumphant when the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA, voted to hold the 2022 World Cup in the oil and gas rich emirate. Qatar’s bid involved massive construction plans for new stadiums, rail lines and virtually an entire new city. It would be the marquee event for a country that aims to transform itself into an intercontinental crossroads.
But controversy followed almost as soon as the decision was announced. With daytime temperatures hitting 120 degrees there has been talk of shifting the games from the summer to the winter. Then last year, a newspaper exposé led to an official investigation that Qatar paid million dollar bribes to win FIFA approval. A member of the FIFA Executive Committee called the Qatar pick a "blatant mistake."
Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers also has come into the spotlight. Amnesty International and other human rights groups report rampant abuse in the construction industry.
ESPN host Jeremy Schaap went to Doha to investigate allegations of laborers from India, Nepal and elsewhere who find themselves toiling in brutal heat, dying in accidents and locked into jobs with no way to get back home because their passports had been confiscated.
"We're talking about a country that can afford to do better," Schaap said on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Schaap noted that per capita, Qatar is the richest nation in the world.
"Qataris don't really work. They don't have to work," Schaap said, claiming that the Qatari government offers generous benefits for the unemployed.
Schaap’s statement that Qataris "don’t really work" struck us as worth learning more about.
We asked Schaap to clarify. In his response, he dialed down his rhetoric.
"I should have said as laborers on construction sites," Schaap told PunditFact. He added that 94 percent of those workers are foreign -- a fact that came up during his MSNBC interview. This led to a further qualification of the more sweeping statement he made on air.
"It's not quite ‘no Qataris’," he said.
Indeed, official statistics show that most Qataris 15 years old and up are employed. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the country has the second lowest unemployment rate in the world, about 0.3 percent. (Definitions of employment might matter here. Cambodia comes in first and its economy is hardly as robust as Qatar’s.)
According to the latest figures from the government of Qatar itself, a total of 82,000 Qataris are working out of a total population estimated at 278,000. (Oddly, the government doesn’t provide population data by nationality.) That represents 68 percent of men over the age of 15 and 35 percent of women. A large fraction of women are listed as "homemakers" and thus not employed. The most common job for men is clerk. The most common job for women is professional.
Schaap does have a point that the government takes good care of its ciitizens. In 2008, nearly 90 percent of Qataris worked in public-sector jobs. A huge factor here is the state-owned petroleum industry. Oil exports netted the government over $55 billion in 2012 and hydrocarbons represent about 60 percent of the nation's GDP. A new college graduate with no experience can expect a job paying $65,000 or more.
The country has more than 1.25 million foreign workers. About 700,000 of them are men working in trades or industrial facilities. On average, they work about 50 hours per week. That’s 10 hours more each week than the average Qatari worker.
All this in a country the size of Connecticut.
Following a tough assessment from the UN’s International Labor Organization, Qatari officials proposed a number of labor reforms. There would be higher penalties for employers who confiscate the passports of foreign workers and an end to a system of exit permits that gave employers control over who could leave the country. International advocacy groups called this a step in the right direction but said the proposed changes didn’t go far enough and violators might never be punished.
Schaap said Qataris "don’t really work." Schaap later clarified his statement, saying he should have specified that he was thinking of work on construction sites, and even with that caveat, his claim went a bit too far.
We rate statements based on what was said on air. In that regard, official reports show that most Qataris of working age do work and hold a variety of jobs. In one way or another, the government provides nearly all these jobs but people still need to show up to get paid. A small fraction of the construction workforce is Qatari. The risks for foreign workers are real, but that is separate from Schaap’s assertion.
We rate the claim False.