Workers get freedom to move between jobs in U.A.E and GCC

Mobility of foreign workers from one employer to another in the UAE as well as movement between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries might become a reality soon, Abu Dhabi Dialogue forum officials said on Wednesday.Also, a proposal to set up a virtual market place that will include a database of names, nationalities and skills of workers to facilitate companies to procure local talent was one some of the key points discussed at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue forum being held in Dubai from Wednesday.

The two-day multilateral forum of Asian labour-sending and receiving countries is being held here from May 11 to 12.

The forum is discussing internal mobility as a way of providing better bargaining rights to workers while protecting their human rights and also to benefit economies of the GCC countries. On Wednesday, officials of several Asian countries met here to discuss international best labour practices for the UAE and other GCC countries.

The UAE has an aggregate work force of 4.2 million and a majority of them are from Asian countries. From 2011 to 2016, the UAE government has passed several ministerial decrees to relax the restrictions on mobility of foreign workers and many GCC countries are now following suit

Dr Omar Abdul Rahman Salem Al Nuaimi, undersecretary assistant for policies and strategies at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, told  “This is an open dialogue between governments of labour-exporting countries from Asia and the GCC countries. We are addressing all worker-related issues. The key reason to begin this initiative in 2008 was the protection of the rights of the work force, especially the lower end of workers from the unskilled and semi-skilled category. At the forum we want to address the modern challenges of exporting labour from many Asian countries to the GCC countries and want to formulate policies to uphold the human rights of workers and have transparency in recruitment policies.”

Dr Al Nuaimi cited projects undertaken following the multilateral discussions at previous forums to change employment conditions, improve wages, etc. “Recognition of the skills of a worker is a very important step towards encouraging them to go for additional and new skills training that is an important asset for facilitating internal mobility. “This project was undertaken by the UAE government in collaboration with the governments of India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Kuwait. This project involved identifying skill sets required, respective governments providing the training and the governments of Kuwait and UAE testing those skills and certifying those who were successful.

Another project undertaken by the UAE government in collaboration with the government of The Philippines was about employment orientation for the workers. “This project involved the pre-departure and post-arrival orientation course for workers to adjust socially and culturally to their new milieu and has been very successful. We intend to extend it for other countries too,” said Al Nuaimi.

The conference was inaugurated by Mubarak Al Daheri, undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. In his address, Al Daheri said the forum would identify best labour practices to strengthen cooperation between labour-importing and exporting countries of Asia. “We want to end negative practices that the labour force may be subjected to and want to establish a high level of transparency in recruitment practices. The cooperation of all participating countries will collectively help establish a system of mobility among markets for labourers that will protect the economic, social, legal and human rights of the workers as well as the interests of the employers.”

Representatives from United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asian countries (UNESCWA), researchers from US, India and federal policymakers from the human resources and labour departments of countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE discussed challenges of the foreign work force with representatives from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand among other countries. They discussed topics of human rights, transparency in labour recruitment, among other things, with their counterparts from labour-exporting countries such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The talks were held under the supervision of a neutral observer from the Swiss Government.

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