UAE citizens illustrative 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Rights organizations are applauding plans by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to print a six-language booklet outlining the rights and responsibilities of foreign workers in the country.
The brochure will be printed in Arabic, English, Persian, Filipino, Urdu and Chinese and distributed to, among others, government departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and workers’ housings, according to the official Emirati news agency WAM.
Lt. Colonel Salah Al Gul, Director of the Office of Culture of Respect for Law in the UAE said “the booklet primarily seeks to foster and heighten the culture of respecting the law and public order, and features the rights and duties of the worker in pursuance of laws conforming with the UAE constitution.”
There are approximately 17 million expatriate workers in the Gulf region according to a study presented at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. In Dubai, nationals constitute a mere 20% of the population.
A recent January report by rights advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, documented a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, badly paid, rarely able to assert their rights and often unable to quit their jobs.
Similar assessments and criticisms have been made by other rights organizations in the region.
“We know that there have been concerns about the protection of the [foreign workers] and the regulation of recruitment in the United Arab Emirates,” Ibrahim Awad, head of the migrant department with the International Labor Organization, told The Media Line.
“If this book comes as a response to such concerns that is something good,” he said. “It depends on what will go in the book and it will depend on implementation, but the principle behind such a book is not something you could object to.”
Professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla echoed the sentiment.
“I think it’s nice to have things clear and written down,” Abdulla, Professor of Political Science at United Arab Emirates University, told The Media Line.
“[Outlining] the rights and responsibilities of both parties, the workers and the companies, is a step forward,” he said.
The Gulf region experienced tremendous economic growth since the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, and natural gas in Qatar and Bahrain. The region has since experienced an influx of foreign workers, attracted by the financial incentives.
The number of foreign workers in the Gulf grew further as countries
followed Dubai’s example of diversifying its economy away from natural
resources towards real estate and financial services.
Several governments in the region have launched so-called
nationalization projects in an attempt to increase the number of
nationals employed in the private sector but due to the favorable
working conditions and higher salaries of the public sector, there has
been little success.