Life is not a “bundle of roses” for expatriate workers in the Middle East as most of us think. Once the ultimate job destination for numerous Indians, Chinese, and Pakistanis, today, Gulf countries face a severe crunch of skilled workers these days. Thanks to the economic progress of most of the Asian countries.
Still the number of expats in the Middle East is quite large and the challenge of protecting their rights in this region has been highlighted in the media as well as many government reports ICPC Recruitment. It is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the private sector workforce, belong to places outside the Emirates and they collectively sent money home worth US$16 billion (Dh58.79bn) as payments in 2006.
A report of the Ministry of Labour of UAE said that it is facing immense challenges in enforcing the rights of this huge foreign populace in this period of rapid inflation. The Government on its part forced various companies to pay out lump-sum amount as unpaid wages to their workers last year and suspended numerous labour permits of companies that were not successful in paying adequately to their workers. In fact, the rising cost of living in the Middle East is putting expats under a lot of financial burden. According to the Ministry of Labour of UAE, non-payment or late payment of wages is the “most conspicuous” labour abuse by employers.
“Overseeing the expatriate workforce in this country is a big challenge, but the Government has made good recent progress in putting policies in place to enforce its laws and improve standards,” said Nasser Munder, the labour attaché with the Philippines Overseas Labour Office in Abu Dhabi.
Laws were introduced to make it mandatory for firms with 50 or more workers to submit statements proving that wages had been paid and received by their employees. Meanwhile, about 1,350 unpaid workers were allowed to find a new job and 48,000 workers changed jobs last year.
Improper accommodation and living standards for workers, an important issue highlighted often by various human rights groups, led to thirty companies in Dubai being ordered to improve worker’s living conditions last year. In this matter Dubai Civil Defence Department has played a significant role when it announced that it would suspend the licence applications or renewals of any company, which have failed to achieve safety compliance certificates for their workers.
The Government has certainly made efforts to enforce labour laws to see that the labour populace lives a life which is safe and healthy. It is also seen that the low or unpaid wages and low standards of accommodation have resulted in many riots and violence throughout the country. About 1,500 Sharjah workers were also involved in a riot in March during which they attacked the public, destroyed properties and clashed with the police.