13

Today's Guardian (the British newspaper) contains this opinion piece from journalist Marina Hyde:

It includes this paragraph:

Fifa’s sponsors, though, are deemed more reachable. This week has seen the launch of a campaign by the International Trade Union Confederation, Play Fair Qatar and the NewFifaNow group to shame them with the appalling conditions endured by labourers building tournament infrastructure for 2022. “As things stand,” declares Play Fair Qatar, “more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament.

The claim is being made by the TUC under their campaign Playfair Qatar (name shown in some media outlets as 'Play Fair Qatar'). The specific claim they make is:

To date [no date is shown for this post] almost 1000 workers have died in Qatar and if nothing changes the death toll could be as much as 4000 by the time the World Cup starts in 2022.

TUC: Qatar, accessed 20 May 2015

On their Facebook page the claim appears as:

62 workers may lose their lives for each game played during Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, due to Qatar's systemic rights abuses and abysmal safety record. Without sponsorship from FIFA's partner companies Coke, VISA, McDonald’s, Adidas, Kia and Hyundai, this multi-billion dollar tournament couldn’t take place. These firms all have ethical policies in place for their own supply chains, but are silent on the abuses they are funding in Qatar.

Facebook: Playfair Qatar, 18 May 2015

On the Playfair Qatar website the claim is:

1420
CONFIRMED DEATHS OF WORKERS FROM JUST NEPAL, INDIA AND BANGLADESH IN 2012-2014. THAT’S ALMOST 40 DEATHS A MONTH.

4000
THE ESTIMATED WORKER DEATH TOLL BY THE TIME THE QATAR WORLD CUP STARTS IN 2022 – IF NOTHING IS DONE TO STOP IT.

Playfair Qatar, accessed 20 May 2015

The same claim is cited by BBC News:

As well as New Fifa Now and ITUC, the call to sponsors has also been backed by Stephen Russell of Play Fair Qatar, which has the backing of the UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Mr Russell said that "as things stand, more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament".

BBC News: Fifa World Cup sponsors urged to speak out over Qatar, 18 May 2015

My questions are:

  • Is it true that the stated number of workers have died in Qatar's preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™?

  • Is it true that if workers continue to die at the same rate, 62 workers per match will have died by the time the Qatar World Cup takes place?

  • 4
    It might be difficult to get definitive answers out of Qatar, as foreign press, even those who have been invited, are being arrested and harassed by the authorities there. bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-32775563 – GordonM May 21 '15 at 15:44
  • Possible source: Human Rights Watch report on Qatar from 2012 – A E May 21 '15 at 18:15
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about future prediction. – Flimzy May 22 '15 at 13:55
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    @Flimzy, I'm not asking anyone to predict the future. That would be silly. I'd draw your attention to the phrase "if workers continue to die at the same rate". I'm asking whether the claim being made about the mortality rate to-date (up until today) is supported by the evidence. Obviously things could change in the future - in fact if the mortality rate is, as seemed to be claimed, very high, then I hope (as I'm sure everyone here does) that things do change and the mortality rate drops. – A E May 22 '15 at 17:52
  • @AE: I'd suggest rewording the title and relevant portions of the question to talk about the verifiable past facts, then, rather than future events. – Flimzy May 22 '15 at 20:17
7

There is a 139 page report, MIGRANT LABOUR IN THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR IN THE STATE OF QATAR, by the law firm DLA Piper.

Some key points are:

-Qatar has a population of approximately 2 million inhabitants. According to a report by the Supreme Council of Health as of September 2013 there were 1,332,838 migrant workers situate in Qatar from the following five major States of Origin: India, Nepal, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

-We spoke with the representatives from the Embassy of Nepal who confirmed that there are currently more than 400,000 Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar (out of a total migrant population of 1.39 million). In 2012 and 2013, the representatives confirmed that there were 162 and 191 deaths of migrant workers respectively. The representatives from the Embassy were not clear how many of these related to construction projects, but said that most deaths were a result of cardiac arrest.

-The representative from the Indian Embassy stated that in the years 2012 and 2013 there were 237 and 241 Indian migrant worker deaths respectively. These statistics are confirmed on the Embassy's website, which states that "…further, considering the large size of our community, the number of deaths is quite normal - 233 in 2010, 239 in 2011, 237 in 2012, 241 in 2013 and 37 in 2014. Most of the deaths are by natural causes."

-The representatives of the Embassy of Bangladesh confirmed that there are approximately 130,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Qatar and of these approximately 70% are employed in the construction sector. The reported total death rate in Qatar is 15 or 16 per month (or approximately 180 deaths per year). Again, it was not clear how many deaths were on construction sites.

Summarizing the above, according to the embassies of Nepal, India and Bangladesh

Nepal

2012: 162 (Qatar statistics say 186)
2013: 191 (Qatar statistics say 197)

India

2012: 237 (Qatar statistics say 252)
2013: 241 (Qatar statistics say 247)

Bangladesh

2012:~180 (Qatar statistics say 82)
2013:~180 (no Qatar statistics)

That is 1191 in a two year period according to the embassies. (1046 according to Qatar statistics, if the "82" is used for Nepal for both years)

If the 1191 rate in extrapolated over a 7 year period, it corresponds to 4168 additional deaths. (3661 extrapolating the Qatar statistics).

So 4000 deaths by 2022 is a reasonable, perhaps conservative, estimate, especially considering there are foreign workers from other countries such as Philippines, Sri Lanka, etc. and due to expected growth in worker population relative to 2012-2013.

It should be kept in mind that this is deaths by all causes and may or may not be related to working.

Is it true that the stated number of workers have died in Qatar's preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™?

No, but does the claim really ever say that they died in preparations for the World Cup? Those are total deaths, not necessarily having any relationship to the World Cup.

  • Thank you for finding that report Dave, that's really interesting. My interpretation of the claim was that it meant excess deaths - people who would not have died had they not been working on the pre-World-Cup construction projects. So the report doesn't seem to bear that out. It's interesting to note that the report was paid for by the state of Qatar - I don't know what that implies about the independence (or not) of the firm that conducted it. – A E May 21 '15 at 18:13
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    @AE Here is an official India government website confirming the India statistics: indianembassyqatar.gov.in/pages/… – DavePhD May 21 '15 at 18:26
  • @AE If you follow the link in the "playfair Qatar" site in your question, playfairqatar.org.uk/death-and-injury , clicking on "4000 people will die" it takes you to this site: ituc-csi.org/qatar-2022-world-cup-risks-4000 that gives sources, making clear that the 4000 is based on the the India embassay data, and reflect total deaths regardless of any relationship to working or the World Cup. – DavePhD May 21 '15 at 19:52
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    No, but does the claim really ever say that they died in preparations for the World Cup? I don't think the Guardian piece does, but Playfair Qatar certainly seems to: "...the International TUC has estimated that more than 4,000 people will die building the World Cup infrastructure." – Is Begot May 21 '15 at 20:16
  • @Geobits good point, "playfair Qatar" is misrepresenting what International TUC website says. On the other hand, the "playfair Qatar" site says "copyright Trade Union Congress", so it's just plain incorrect. – DavePhD May 21 '15 at 20:40

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