UNITED NATIONS, May 1 2019 (IPS) – The United Nations has estimated a hefty $466 billion as remittances from migrant workers worldwide in 2017—and perhaps even higher last year.
These remittances, primarily from the US, Western Europe and Gulf nations, go largely to low and middle-income countries, “helping to lift millions of families out of poverty,” says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
But most of these migrant workers are known to pay a heavy price, toiling mostly under conditions of slave labour: earning low wages, with no pensions or social security, and minimum health care.
As the United Nations commemorated Labour Day on May 1, the plight of migrant workers is one of the issues being pursued by the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency which celebrates its centenary this year promoting social justice worldwide.
In a December 2018 report, the ILO said: “If the right policies are in place, labour migration can help countries respond to shifts in labour supply and demand, stimulate innovation and sustainable development, and transfer and update skills”.
However, a lack of international standards regarding concepts, definitions and methodologies for measuring labour migration data still needs to be addressed, it warned.
But much more daunting is the current state of the migrant labour market which has been riddled with blatant violations of all the norms of an ideal workplace.
Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, a member of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, told IPS rising populist nationalism world over is giving rise to rhetoric with unfounded allegations and irrational assessments of the worth of migrant workers to economies of many migrant receiving countries in the world.
Since migrant workers remain voiceless without voting or political rights in many such receiving countries, they are unable to mobilize political opinion to counter assertions against them, he said.
“And migrant workers are now being treated in some countries as commodities for import and export at will, not as humans with rights and responsibilities,” said Ambassador Kariyawasam, a former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations.
Unless these trends are reversed soon, he warned, not only human worth as a whole will diminish, but it can also lead to unexpected social upheavals affecting economic and social well-being of some communities in both sending and receiving countries of migrant workers.
At a UN press conference April 10, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said the ILO Centenary is a time to affirm with conviction that the mandate and standards set by the Organization remain of extraordinary importance and relevance to people everywhere.
He called for a future where labour is not a commodity, where decent work and the contribution of each person are valued, where all benefit from fair, safe and respectful workplaces free from violence and harassment, and in which wealth and prosperity benefit all.
Tara Carey, Senior Content & Media Relations Manager at Equality Now told IPS poverty and poor employment opportunities are a push factor for sex trafficking.
There are many cases in which women and girls in African countries are promised legitimate work and are then trafficked into prostitution. This happens within countries, across borders, and from Africa to places in Europe and the Middle East, she pointed out.
And recently, the police in Nigeria estimated 20,000 women and girls had been sold into sexual slavery in Mali:
“The new trend is that they told them they were taking them to Malaysia and they found themselves in Mali. They told them they would be working in five-star restaurants where they would be paid $700 per month.”
The number of migrants is estimated at over 240 million worldwide. And an increasingly large number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are home to most migrant workers from Asia.
In a background briefing during a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly in April, the ILO said conditions of work need to be improved for the roughly 300 million working poor – outside of migrant labour — who live on $1.90 a day.
Millions of men, women and children are victims of modern slavery. Too many still work excessively long hours and millions still die of work-related accidents every year.
“Wage growth has not kept pace with productivity growth and the share of national income going to workers has declined. Inequalities remain persistent around the world. Women continue to earn around 20 per cent less than men.”
“Even as growth has lessened inequality between countries, many of our societies are becoming more unequal. Millions of workers remain disenfranchised, deprived of fundamental rights and unable to make their voices heard”, according to the background briefing.
In its 2018 review of Human Rights in the Middle East & North Africa, the London-based Amnesty International (AI) said there were some positive developments at a legislative level in Morocco, Qatar and the UAE with respect to migrant labour and/or domestic workers.
But still migrant workers continued to face exploitation in these and other countries, including Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Saudi Arabia, in large part due to kafala (sponsorship) systems, which limited their ability to escape abusive working conditions.
In Morocco, the parliament passed a new law on domestic workers, entitling domestic workers to written contracts, maximum working hours, guaranteed days off, paid vacations and a specified minimum wage.
Despite these gains, the new law still offered less protection to domestic workers than the Moroccan Labour Code, which does not refer to domestic workers, AI said.
In Qatar, a new law partially removed the exit permit requirement, allowing the vast majority of migrant workers covered by the Labour Law to leave the country without seeking their employers’ permission.
However, the law retained some exceptions, including the ability of employers to request exit permits for up to 5% of their workforce. Exit permits were still required for employees who fell outside the remit of the Labour Law, including over 174,000 domestic workers in Qatar and all those working in government entities.
In the UAE, the authorities introduced several labour reforms likely to be of particular benefit to migrant workers, including a decision to allow some workers to work for multiple employers, tighter regulation of recruitment processes for domestic workers and a new low-cost insurance policy that protected private sector employees’ workplace benefits in the event of job loss, redundancy or an employer’s bankruptcy, according to AI.
Meanwhile, as the ILO pointed out in a report in May 2017, current sponsorship regimes in the Middle East have been criticized for creating an asymmetrical power relationship between employers and migrant workers – which can make workers vulnerable to forced labour.
Essential to the vulnerability of migrant workers in the Middle East is that their sponsor controls a number of aspects related to their internal labour market mobility – including their entry, renewal of stay, termination of employment, transfer of employment, and, in some cases, exit from the country, the report noted.
Such arrangements place a high responsibility – and often a burden – on employers. To address these concerns, alternative modalities can be pursued which place the role of regulation and protection more clearly with the government.
This report demonstrates that reform to the current sponsorship arrangements that govern temporary labour migration in the Middle East will have wide-ranging benefits – from improving working conditions and better meeting the needs of employers, to boosting the economy and labour market productivity.
Meanwhile, in its ”Century Ratification Campaign”, ILO has invited its 187 member States to ratify at least one international labour Convention in the course of 2019, with a commitment to apply a set of standards governing one aspect of decent work to all men and women, along with one political commitment supporting sustainable development for all.
EY research says the largest event to be held in the Arab World is predicted to add the equivalent of 1.5% to UAE GDP
Expo 2020 Dubai will boost the UAE economy by AED122.6 billion ($33.4 billion) and support 905,200 job-years between 2013 and 2031, according to an independent report published by global consultancy EY.
During the peak six-month period of the World Expo, the largest event to be held in the Arab World is predicted to add the equivalent of 1.5 percent to UAE gross domestic product.
The scale of investment pouring in to construct and host an event of this ambition, as well as goods and services consumed by the millions expected to visit and the businesses that will occupy the Expo site in the legacy phase, will result in an economic dividend that will benefit businesses large and small across a range of sectors for years to come, according to the report.
From November 2013 – when Dubai won the bid to host the Expo – until its opening in October 2020, the economic impetus will be driven by the construction sector as work continues on building the site and supporting infrastructure such as roads, bridges and the Dubai Metro Route 2020 line, EY noted.
Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, executive director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, said: “This independent report demonstrates that Expo 2020 Dubai is a critical long-term investment in the future of the UAE, which will contribute more than 120 billion dirhams to the economy between 2013 and 2031.
“Not only will the event encourage millions around the world to visit the UAE in 2020, it will also stimulate travel and tourism and support economic diversification for years after the Expo, leaving a sustainable economic legacy that will help to ensure the UAE remains a leading destination for business, leisure and investment.”
The report added that small and medium enterprises, a core component of the UAE economy, will receive AED4.7 billion in investment during the pre-Expo phase, supporting 12,600 job-years.
Job-years is defined as full-time employment for one person for one year and describes the employment impact over the life or phase of a project.
During the peak six months of Expo 2020, visitor spending on tickets, merchandise, food and beverage, hotels, flights and local transport will propel economic activity.
Expo 2020 expects 25 million visits, with 70 per cent of visitors coming from outside the UAE, providing the hospitality industry with an unmissable opportunity to show the world what the UAE has to offer.
The EY report added that the positive thrust will continue in the decade after Expo closes its doors in April 2021, thanks largely to the transformation of the site into District 2020, an integrated urban development that will house the Dubai Exhibition Centre.
Matthew Benson, partner, Transaction Advisory Services, MENA, EY, said: “Expo 2020 is an exciting long-term investment for the UAE, and is expected to have a significant impact on the economy and how jobs are created directly and indirectly.
“As the host, Dubai aims to use the event to further enhance its international profile and reputation. The event will celebrate innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation, and entertain and educate global audiences.
Migrant or expatriate workers continue adding to the labour force of oil-rich Gulf due to mega-construction projects, UN data shows. Al Jazeera posted this article dated 20 Dec 2018 elaborating on a situation known to all since the advent of oil.
Blue-collar migrant workers continue adding to the
labour force of the oil-rich Gulf, skewing long-standing efforts by its leaders
to increase the percentage of its own citizens in the workforce, data of the
UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) shows.
Figures released this month in a 78-page study, ILO
Global Estimates on National Migrant Workers, showed that the proportion of
migrants in the eastern Arab region’s workforce ballooned by 5.2 percent from
2013 to 2017, mostly in the construction sector.
Migrants now make up 40.8 percent of the workforce
across a 12-nation region that includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
This is a much higher proportion than other rich
regions that attract some of the world’s estimated 164 million migrant workers.
In comparison, migrants make up only 20.6 percent of the labour force in North
America, and 17.8 percent in Europe.
In Dubai, Doha and other Gulf
boomtowns, foreigners make up as much as 90 percent of workers, according to
older figures. The ILO did not have data on separate countries for this month’s
report; Ryszard Cholewinski, the ILO’s Beirut-based expert on migrant
workers, said that figures provided by Gulf governments are often
The increase in labour flows to Gulf states these past five years was driven mainly by mega-construction projects, including pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums being built across Qatar, said Cholewinski.
Demand has also grown for maids, gardeners, drivers
and other domestic staff, he added. In particular, more foreign carers are
being hired to look after a growing number of elderly folks in their homes, as
the Gulf population ages.
“The demand for male workers in the Arab
states explains the sharp increase in the share of migrant workers in this
region. Many of these workers are manual labourers, located mostly in the
construction sector,” Natalia Popova, an ILO labour economist, told Al
“Possible other reasons for the increase in
the high share of migrant workers may include the increasing demand for
domestic workers, both male and female, as well as for migrant workers in the
While data on nationalisation efforts is skewed due
to the sheer amount of blue-collar migrants, Gulf leaders have long sought to
boost the numbers of their working citizens, mainly in the white-collar workforce.
However, state-led hiring drives, with
such names as Qatarisation, Emiratisation and Saudisation, have had only
limited success, particularly in the private sector, according to the ILO.
“Many of these nationalisation policies are
not really having any impact. It’s one of the region’s big challenges,”
Cholewinski told Al Jazeera.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric on nationalisation in for example Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda. But in practice, this is
going extremely slowly.”
Al Jazeera contacted the UN missions of all six
Gulf states by email and telephone over the course of several days, but was not
able to get a comment on this issue.
While each Gulf nation faces different challenges
when it comes to nationalisation, many Gulf citizens loathe taking jobs in
private companies, which cannot compete with the pension plans, generous holidays
and shorter working hours in the cushy jobs-for-life enjoyed by civil servants.
This can lead to odd distortions. A visitor to
Dubai, the UAE’s tourism hub, can spend their whole week-long vacation being
served by migrant workers in shops, taxis and eateries, and the only Emirati
they meet is a passport-stamping immigration clerk at the airport.
Last month, the UAE launched it’s so-called Citizen
Redistribution Policy to temporarily shift civil servants into private sector
jobs. It also rolled out training schemes for Emiratis and online recruitment
In recent months, Riyadh has introduced rules
requiring shops to have Saudis in at least 70 percent of sales jobs. Expat
workers pay monthly fees for their spouses and children, employers pay similar
penalties for foreign employees.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda aims to overhaul the Saudi economy by
massively expanding the healthcare, education, recreation and tourism sectors
and slash the high unemployment rates for young Saudis.
John Shenton, chairman of the Chartered Institute
of Building’s Novus initiative, which supports construction jobs in Dubai, told
Al Jazeera that Gulf nationalisation schemes were bearing fruit.
In some state-regulated sectors, such as banking,
legal and financial services, the number of local staff has grown, Shenton
said. “If the goal is to get more Emiratis in the workforce then it’s
having some effect,” said Shenton. “However there are other factors
that will mean that those efforts may not be reflected in the data.”
These gains are dwarfed by the mass-recruitment of
foreign construction workers to build the skyscrapers, malls and artificial
islands for which the region is famous, he added.
“At a site level, the chaps in safety boots
and hard hats will always be from the subcontinent or South Asia,” Shenton
“At the engineering and supervisory level, the
skill set required can’t be satisfied by the number of local graduates. The
volume of work being undertaken and the discreet programme dates associated
with projects like Qatar 2022 necessitate our hosts resourcing from
Melissa Roza, a headhunter at a Dubai-based
recruitment firm, said nationalisation schemes had made gains in some
white-collar jobs, but that state-set hiring quotas and penalty fees were also
hurting these sectors.
Banks in the UAE often prefer to pay fines for
hiring foreigners than to cover the recruitment costs involved in hiring an
Emirati, training them up and meeting their high salary expectations, she said.
Executives have also found workarounds by hiring
migrants via outsourcing firms, which do not affect the quota count, added
Roza, whose name was changed so she could talk frankly on a hot-button
What happens when the president of the world’s leading superpower makes inflammatory comments about immigrants and wins an election based largely on a racist and nationalist platform? As we’ve seen over the past two years, his followers feel emboldened and righteous in their discrimination against immigrants, despite their hopes, ambitions and rich personal histories.
Similarly in the UK, after the referendum to leave the EU, some voters felt free to vent their racist views. International students have also been feeling unwelcome due to high tuition fees, tight immigration laws and the introduction of charges to use the NHS.
This has profound implications for the higher education sector, where international students bring numerous social, cultural and financial benefits to their host institutions and country. In the US for example, in 2017-18, there were 1,094,792 international students who contributed US$39 billion to the economy, supporting 455,622 American jobs – equal to three jobs per seven international students.
Yet prejudice against international students is on the rise in the US and the UK. A recent US study found that this prejudice was predicted by support for Trump. Its author suggests that students who champion Trump’s vision of America might see international students through a racist lens, viewing them as unwelcome “others”.
A small study of just 389 home students, it can’t be used to generalise attitudes of all Trump supporters, but it can provide a window on what might be happening on university campuses across the the country where there are international students. And it serves as an important reminder for other countries, such as the UK, to consider how political debate can have an impact on international students.
Dealing with change
Regardless of the political context of the country they choose to study in, international students typically experience many changes, including moving to a new country and city with different educational, social care and health systems. They also face separation from family and friends and the need to make new friends and establish relationships with staff and the local community.
They encounter different cultures and languages, experience new expectations and realities and have to deal with issues such as housing, finances and health care. Most international students not only adapt well to these changes, they thrive. But for some, the challenges can have a negative impact on their well-being – particularly in places which are less than welcoming to international students.
There is a large body of research, including our own highlighting the fact that for international students, mixing with home students can be challenging – even without a political climate that discriminates against them as immigrants. We, and other researchers, have found that most visiting students don’t have much interaction with home students, which can explain why they are often perceived as “other”.
How well students are able to develop academic relationships and social friendships has an impact on their ability to cope with the complex demands of higher education. Some are more at risk in terms of isolation and stress, which can seriously affect their education and well-being. These consequences also come at a cost to the university and the wider community beyond, where positive experiences between different cultures can contribute to more tolerant, inclusive societies.
It is also important to remember that international students choose to go abroad to learn about other cultures, an experience that can also benefit home students. It can lead to a better understanding and appreciation of the world, an ability to think critically and consider different perspectives in their studies. When there is so much to gain, failure to integrate international students is a wasted opportunity for host communities and visiting students alike.
Role of university staff
Academic staff can be one of the most important support networks for international students. In their new environment – cut off from friends and family ties – they often see staff as the most familiar and trusted people, especially before they’ve had a chance to make new friends.
So how can universities encourage and nurture meaningful integration, especially in environments which can be hostile towards immigrants? Our studies have documented the positive impact of authentic group-work activities. By mixing up students’ normal groupings, teachers can influence the academic and social learning of both international and home students.
In the same way, using culturally relevant learning materials, such as books by authors from different countries, exploring topics like international human rights, and using case studies that include international contexts, can encourage students to share their own diverse range of perspectives in inclusive ways.
The responsibility of a university is not limited to just providing a good learning environment – it must provide a good social environment too. Our award-winning research into social transitions of international doctoral students in the UK found that participants wanted staff to see them as more than just students – to see them as human beings first. Mixing socially and sharing cultural events provides an enjoyable social setting for students and staff to get together, helps to break down stereotypes and enhances understanding of different cultures.
In a climate of rising intolerance across the world, it is more important than ever that universities step up and lead by example when it comes to being inclusive.
The beauty and personal care industry in the MENA region, valued at $15.9 billion, is set to grow twice as faster than the rest of the world with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5 per cent in the next three years, a report said.
Meanwhile the global industry, which is worth $444 billion, is estimated to grow at 4.2 per cent per annum, added the latest MENA Beauty Care Report from Dubai-based Millennial Capital, an emerging venture capital firm specialising in developing partnerships with global brands in the consumer, retail and wellness sector which target to enter or operate in the GCC market..
The report cited reasons of high spending per capita, affordable prices, strong consumer confidence, high literacy rates, young population with a high social media exposure and on top of that new entrants with the aim to fill the gap in the “masstige category”.
Among the key categories that contribute most of the beauty and personal care market size are skincare, haircare, colour cosmetics, fragrances and men’s grooming. Globally, the Skincare category dominates the market and as a brand, L’Oréal Group captures the largest market share. Contrary to global trends, fragrances is the most loved category in the Mena region. The same is evident from the fact that two local brands, Arabian Oud and Al Qurashi, control over 20 per cent of the market share due to their appeal to the local masses and cultural significance.
While Saudi Arabia retains the highest market share of 33.2 per cent in the MENA region, the UAE stands higher in terms of spending per capita at $239. Despite the fact that UAE constitutes only 2 per cent of the Mena population, the high spending per capita is a result of the strong consumer confidence, high literacy rates and predominantly young population with a high social media exposure.
There is great opportunity for new players with the right value proposition to step in and gain market share weighing on the gradually shifting consumer focus to quality products that not just pamper and protect, but also pay attention to cleaner and more organic ingredients, along with personalised offerings so that wider audiences can love and appreciate them just as much, according to the report.
All of this, with an affordable price point has enabled new entrants like O Boticário, KIKO Milano and Benefit Cosmetics to lure the millennial consumer away from luxury tags, it added.
“In the age of beauty ‘retailment’ with consumer preferences shifting from being product-based to experience-based, by having alchemy and innovation in its DNA, brands such as O Boticário bring to Dubai an unprecedented emphasis on quality and retail innovation, offering customers an experience complete with interactive shopping content, products that narrate stories combined with the latest retail technologies, such as the LED screens inside the store which enable customers to get to know the stories behind the products when they lift the product from its display,” said Andreea Danila, founder & managing director at Millennial Capital Ltd.
Millennial Capital joined hands with Brazil’s O Boticário Group to introduce the largest cosmetics franchised network in UAE with the opening of two flagship stores in Dubai Mall and Mirdif City Center. The brand received an overwhelming response since the opening of the store in Dubai and its preparing for Saudi Arabia regional market expansion.
“With 33 per cent of global consumers citing brand sustainability as a key deciding factor in their product choices according to Unilever, there is an untapped potential of $1.1 billion for cleaner and sustainable brands in the market,” said Kanchan Khemani, senior investment analyst at Millennial Capital.
“O Boticário has been a pioneer in the research on alternative methods of product testing such as 3D skin instead of animal testing. The brand invests 1 per cent of revenues in forest conservation, and have reduced their electricity consumption by 70 per cent, leading to a saving of 3,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.”
Internet penetration in the Middle East has outpaced the world average of 51.7 per cent, with the largest markets boasting over 90 per cent penetration; thereby having a tremendous influence on consumers aged 18-24. Being avid smartphone users, today’s millennial is more comfortable going to the e-tailer citing lower prices, personalised offerings, and flexible payment methods as factors driving their preference.
Despite the high Middle East social media usage at 38 per cent of total population and average internet penetration of 60 per cent, only 15 per cent of retailers in the Middle East maintain an online presence, hence losing out on the 56 per cent shoppers who purchase products online through their smartphones.
It is interesting to note that health and beauty sales contribute 48 per cent of the Middle East’s online sales, the report said.
It is no surprise that in this article (see below) of ConstructionWeekonline, there is no hint anywhere that Indians, Pakistanis most interested in UAE property investments make up the most significant percentage of the populations of the respective GCC countries.
Since the advent of oil, the Persian Gulf countries have generally turned into modern states through concurrent processes of development. Rapid population growth in the GCC states has been timed by 10 at least, in the space of few decades through primarily a natural growth in the influx of foreign workers and not through their indigenous population.
It must also be noted that the same countries planning ahead are believed to be somehow facilitating investments of non nationals in any segment of their economies, presumably to counter all those consequences of oil peaking shortly and away from the Gulf region.
Of the top five most active nationalities on Dubizzle Property, the highest interest in the UAE property market came from Indian nationals, accounting for 22% of visits to the platform in 9M 2018.
Indians and Pakistanis are most interested in UAE property investments, Dubizzle said [representational image].
o EThis data echoes figures from Dubai Land Department (DLD), where Indian nationals accounted for more than 4,600 investments worth AED 8.6 billion in the first nine months of this year, representing the largest property investment segment in the UAE.
Pakistanis came in second with 14% of visits to dubizzle Property, followed by Egyptians (6 per cent), Jordanians (4 per cent) and UK nationals (4%).
Egyptians and Jordanians are the top Arab nationalities looking to invest in the UAE property market, according to dubizzle Property.
The two nationalities accounted for 10 per cent of property seekers on the platform in the first three quarters of the year.
This is in line with the figures recently revealed by the Dubai Land Department (DLD) concerning Dubai real estate transactions during the same period, where Jordanians were identified as the highest Arab investors with 644 investments by 548 investors, worth over AED 1.2 billion. Egyptians recorded 719 transactions made by 623 investors, worth over AED 1 billion.
China, France, UAE, and KSA were among the top 20 most active users of the platform, which is also in line with the DLD’s list of top 10 investors by nationality that includes UAE, India, KSA, UK, Pakistan, China, Egypt, Jordan, and France.
“The current soft sales market has made the cost of property ownership more attractive versus the cost of rent, especially for those considering staying in Dubai for five years or more. Long-term expats are increasingly making the leap into ownership as declining prices are now making this investment possible,” commented Matthew Gregory, head of property sales at dubizzle Property.