Lesson Plan

  • Grades 11-12

Balancing Profits and Paychecks — Rights of Foreign Workers and Responsibilities of Their Employers


The lesson takes place over two class periods with an intervening project.

Class 1:
Introduce the assignment (see below).

Divide the class into teams. You can choose to have two large teams and allow students to figure out individual assignments within those teams, or you can divide the two large topic areas into smaller chunks that are assigned to more than two teams.

Begin the research process by showing the clips from The Workers Cup. Explain that students will see selected clips from a film about foreign workers who are building Qatar's facilities and infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup (soccer tournament) in 2022. The title of the film comes from a football (soccer) tournament that FIFA sponsored for teams of workers from the companies involved in the massive construction efforts. Show all four clips sequentially, pausing briefly between each to allow students to link the film's content to specific facets of their assigned tasks (looking at things like housing, wages and so on).

Allow teams time to meet and determine their work processes, including assignment of specific tasks.

Class 2:
Teams will share their findings and recommendations. You may want to take on the role of the chief executive who decides whether to accept or decline students' recommendations. Or you might invite someone from the local business community to play that role. In either case, the role will involve questioning students about their research and conclusions.

The Assignment

Scenario: You work as a mid-level executive in a U.S.-based hotel chain operating properties across the world. It is a publicly held company, so it has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to provide a return on investment, and there is always market pressure to produce substantial profit.

The chain is considering the possibility of building a new hotel in Qatar in time for the 2022 World Cup. Due to the frenzy of World Cup facility construction, there are no native Qatari workers available, so you must recruit foreign workers. Planners estimate that hotel construction will take three years, so you must find workers who are both skilled and willing to live in Qatar for long stretches of time.

Further complicating the situation, Qatar has little housing available for the foreign workers streaming into the country. In fact, foreign workers outnumber the entire native population of Qatar, comprising 60 percent of the people currently in the country. That has led to concerns that foreigners might overrun the small nation, so the government (which grants construction permits) frowns on foreign workers interacting socially with people outside of the construction zones.

On the upside, the hotel would give the chain a presence in Qatar, home to a U.S. airbase. The long-term profit potential is quite good. Qatar's government has generally been welcoming to American investments, but as a small nation, it has only a limited amount of land to accommodate all interested companies. Competitors are already committed to building in the country, and the chain risks being squeezed out for decades if it does not act now.

The Task: Your job is to investigate your assigned topic related to labor and, together with your team, make a final recommendation about the advisability of the project. In other words, based on what you have learned about the labor situation, should your company commit to building a hotel in Qatar in time for the World Cup.

You can assume that others are working on other important aspects of the project, such as availability and cost of materials, design and infrastructure challenges and financing, so consider those areas extraneous to your task.

Because this is a fictional project, we understand that it may not be possible to obtain exact numbers, which means you will not know what overall project costs will be, so you need not come to a conclusion about profitability. Instead, emphasis should be on identifying the issues that the company must address and the likelihood that it could successfully address them.

Final reports must be in written form and must include the following:

  • Background on Qatar, with information highlighted that might affect the labor issues you are assigned.
  • The standards by which international human rights organizations would judge your company's treatment of workers.
  • A collective recommendation and an appendix that includes a research summary from each team member with analysis of that member's specific assigned issue. Individual team members who disagree with a team's final recommendation may also submit their own recommendations (including justification and evidence).

Teams will also be responsible for orally presenting a 5-10 minute summary of their findings and recommendations and answering questions that classmates or "company executives" might have. Check with your teacher/professor about requirements for visual aids to accompany this presentation.

Team 1: Labor Laws and Standards

Issues to address include:

  • Will you pay prevailing wages or a living wage?
  • How many hours per day and per week will workers be required to work?
  • Are employees eligible for overtime compensation?
  • How often are workers paid and in what form?
  • Are there required breaks during the workday? In areas where heat is an issue, will the company provide potable water?
  • Will there be easy access to bathrooms? How often can workers take bathroom breaks?
  • Will you bring workers from the U.S. or recruit from other nations?
  • What sorts of safety training and/or certifications will be required?
  • Will there be a worker's comp system and/or health insurance?
  • Under what conditions could an employee quit? Is an employee who resigns able to work for a competitor?
  • Can a worker be fired at will or must it be for cause?
  • Will the company accommodate a worker's religious practices (e.g., guaranteeing certain holidays off or taking breaks during the day for prayer)?

Team 2: Human Resources Practices and Policies

  • What will a standard length of employment term be?
  • Do employees get vacation time?
  • Who pays the costs to bring in employees from other countries? If employees need to leave, who pays to get them home?
  • Do employees have freedom of movement? Who holds their passports?
  • Will the company provide housing? If yes, what sort of accommodations will be provided? Will it be free or will the employees pay rent?
  • Will the company provide transportation to work sites?
  • Is there a system for workers to raise grievances and have them addressed?
  • Will the company provide on-site basic health care?
  • Will the company provide any type of recreational activities? How about amenities like Internet access (to facilitate contact with families back home)?
  • Will workers be permitted to do whatever they wish during their off hours?
  • Will the company provide uniforms and laundry services?
  • Will the company provide meals? If so, will foods from countries of origin be included on the menu? Will accommodations be made for religious requirements?
  • Will workers have to pay for any of the amenities provided?