DUBAI: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should adopt a common strategy to address problems related to expatriate workers, a top Bahraini labor expert has said.
According to Mohammed Dito, who has held senior posts in Bahrain's labor ministry and its Economic Development Board (EDB) and also serves the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the GCC member states should work in close coordination to work out a common strategy to tackle this complex problem.
In an interview to Kuwait's official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Dito said such dialogue should involve both public and grass-root authorities and associations. The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In Kuwait, it stood at 84 percent, and in the UAE at 95 percent. Citing 2006 figures, Dito said the proportion of expatriate workers and employees in the private sector compared to the employed nationals in Kuwait amounted to 90 percent, in the UAE to 98.7 percent, and in Qatar to 96 percent.
He said decision makers in the GCC states are divided, with one camp viewing the huge number of the expatriate workers as a threat to the countries' national cultures, traditions and values, and the other believing their employment is necessary and in keeping with globalization.
International organizations and agencies, namely the UN and the ILO, the Bahraini expert said, viewed this phenomenon as positive for it would narrow the gap between the wealthy and poor nations and could contribute in combating poverty.
Commenting on the problems faced by foreign workers in the region, he said most of their problems arise from their countries of origin and then worsen in the host countries of this region.
Expatriate workers end up in one of the Gulf countries after taking large debts to pay recruiting agents to find work in the region, he said. Being indebted, once these laborers land in the Gulf, they are inclined to get involved in any kind of activity that might generate more money to pay off the debts, he told KUNA.
Dito said recurring strikes and violent acts by expatriate workers reflect some dimensions of their ordeals and suffering. Dito's comments came on the heels of a spate of strikes in several Gulf nations by expatriate workers protesting against low salaries and poor living and working conditions.
Kuwait had seen a spate of violent strikes in the last couple of months by foreign workers, especially Bangladeshis, demanding higher salaries. A large number of Bangladeshi workers were also deported after crackdowns by authorities.
The Kuwait parliament is holding an emergency session September 10 to discuss the problems of foreign workers.
In his comments, Dito also expressed disappointment at the ability of the governments of the region to find basic and effective common solutions to the problems, and especially noted the GCC's failure to unify the economic systems on the lines of the European Union (EU).