Thursday, April 06, 2006

More on Gulf Labor

'Aqoul has input on labor issues in the Gulf region:
"So far, any movement towards improving worker rights seems to be driven by external pressure, rather than any genuine internal motivation. On one hand, awareness is raised by human rights agencies issuing complaints, with additional pressure exerted by the US government during recent free trade talks. On the other, Dubai's government in particular is eager to sell itself as modern and Westernized in order to attract tourists and wealthy Western residents, compelling it to outlaw some of the more visible abuses. For a decade now, workers in the emirate have been transported on buses rather than packed onto flatbed/pickup trucks like cattle. However, workers throughout the Gulf are still largely confined to squalid labour camps on the outskirts of cities, where they are invisible to the general populace. Some categories of low-paid workers live in houses where as many as 12 people share a room in order to save on rent, but they risk being caught by the police and deported for overcrowding. Indeed, ‘bachelors’ – the euphemism for males whose families remain abroad due to government regulations forbidding those earning less than a certain salary from sponsoring family members' visas – are not supposed to live in large areas of Gulf cities. Municipalities have designated these areas as being exclusively for ‘families’ - anyone but single men earning low wages. Much of this discrimination seems unlikely to vanish soon, as seen in a recent decision in Sharjah to prevent members of the working class from using public parks."

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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