Are the Gulf States Stable? Is a Worker Revolution Coming? Slavemasters are Outnumbered!

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).

Dito said the problem is particularly serious in light of the increasing number of unemployed nationals in the GCC countries. To drive home his point, he said the proportion of foreign labor compared to the whole workforce in Saudi Arabia, for example, amounted to 88 percent.

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).



The 2010 world cup

I sit and I watch the Middle eastern countries play football and it sucks. They have all the money in the world and yet they still can't improve on their skills. O and don't 4get that certain players r not from those countries and no1 questions this, I wonder Y?????

The only way they will ever lift the world cup is by BUYING it.

Nice article...

This is a nice article and I think the issue needs to be addressed properly. Unfortunately, Arab countries will not naturalize any foreign workers as means of compensating their hard work and effort, due to their overly conservative cultural tradition. But I'm sure, with increasing international pressure, eventually some of the GCC countries will begin treating their labor force properly even if it means slowing down workload and delaying project deadlines.

A worker revolution, though sometimes effective, could also backfire on the foreign guest workers. It could go either way...
1. Increased riots, protests and strikes will influence local governments into changing policies.
2. They'll simply be surrounded by an armed force, detained and deported back to their countries.

Point number 2 is happening to the Bengali workers in Kuwait right now. And now Bangladesh's government is the one that got hit hard, since the Kuwaitis simply found other nationalities willing to work for them.

But I must inform you that the main problem actually exists in Dubai than any other place in the GCC. Kuwait is actually a democratic country, which is somewhat more ahead of the other countries in the region. Therefore I personally believe the biggest workers' abuse occurs in UAE, Bahrain, KSA and Qatar. Not sure about Oman, though... Number 1 gold medal award definitely goes to Dubai.

So is a worker revolution feasible? Perhaps. But it could go either way. And it will definitely make things a lot worse for the workers, inside and outside the country that's hosting them. But I must say the workers revolution is already happening.

Since you used Kuwait as an example, I'll be glad to mention a few facts. Many of the Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait were ex-Prisoners in their own country. When they went there, some improved and some went back to their old ways. Unfortunately, Kuwait's intelligent government highlighted all of them as bad.

Many Bangladeshis were caught in drug and prostitution activities. Some even established their own 'places' for prostitution, and they lured many foreign women workers (e.g. from Philippines) into it. Others went in gang-related criminal activities, the latest being a turf war between them and Egyptian workers. A few raided shops in their local districts, stole items, etc. And some went as far as assaulting and raping local women. I classify all these things as the revolution wave you're talking about. Some have been pushed into doing it. But we must also acknowledge that another blame goes on the foreign governments who are basically ridding of their prisoners by sending them abroad. Having said that, the action Kuwait's government took on all Bengali workers isn't fair, since not all have done bad things.

In the end, however, I think Kuwait can easily solve its problems. Since it relies on a good political system (democracy), they can easily grant extra human right privileges to its workers, etc. Many other workers right now actually enjoy Kuwait's condition when compared to regional sister nations. I think the biggest problem exists in Dubai, and that's where things could really become tense. Another place where violence would escalate might be here in Bahrain, since there is some sort of a fight going on between local gangs and foreign gangs. And this will only make things worse.

I think there's no winner here. All are losers. The best solution is to institutionalize these issues, like democratic countries are doing. As long as it's a one-man show (which is the case in every GCC country except Kuwait), these problems will continue to get worse. And unfortunately for the workers, they won't get anything out of it unless they do succeed in applying pressure on the government to change. And that can only happen when the international community begins to take note what's occurring around here.