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23 February 2024

Mapping of global policy on migrant labour begins

By Nissar Hoath




The first steps towards drawing up a global framework for the administration of migrant labour were taken yesterday at a conference in the capital.

The steps were taken at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, a ministerial-level meeting of manpower receiving and supplying countries.

More than 200 delegates from 22 countries – 11 senders and 11 receivers – are attending the event at Emirates Palace hotel. The countries represented range from the US to China.

The talks will end today with a meeting chaired by UAE Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi and the release of a set of recommendations made by the 22 ministers.

Al Kaabi said the meeting represented a historic opportunity to facilitate the creation of a partnership to promote multilateral co-operation on contractual labour.

“Over the past two years our ministry has signed a number of bilateral protocols, which lay the foundation for an efficient and equitable administration of contractual labour in the UAE. We look forward to a consensus on the general principles of a future multilateral framework of co-operation to emerge from our meeting in Abu Dhabi.”

Yesterday’s session, chaired by assistant under-secretary Yousuf Abdul Ghani, considered a range of issues concerning the use of contractual labour and workers’ welfare. Ghani said the meeting will recommend holding similar talks every two years.

About 13 million expatriate workers make up 70 per cent of the workforce of the six GCC countries, according to available figures.
They remit $27 billion (Dh99bn) home each year. According to the World Bank, the global figure for remittances in 2006 was $200bn.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is co-hosting the meeting with the ministry, said Indian expatriates around the world alone remitted $26bn in 2006.

He added: “Fifteen per cent of this total was remitted from the six GCC countries. Between 30 and 35 per cent of worldwide remittances to India were sent through improper channels, such as hawala, which indicates a need for improved banking services.”

The UAE is one of the main destinations for Asian manpower – and the demand is rising.

However, the weakening dollar, to which the dirham is pegged, and the growing strength of currencies in Asian countries is becoming a growing concern.

Both skilled and unskilled workers from countries such India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are discovering that the value of the money they send home is falling each year.

An IOM report said more than 2.5 million Asian contract workers leave their countries every year to work abroad – and a large portion of these head for the GCC. Many work in the oil and gas-driven construction boom.

The paper adds: “The majority of remittances flow from north to south, but 30 to 45 per cent flow south to south, from one developing country to another.”

Sri Lankan Ambassador Mohammed Nabvi Junaid said remittances make up a substantial proportion of his country’s economy.