07 September, 2006

Ushering in Labour reforms

Dubai: Unskilled labourers wishing to work in the UAE are required to have basic English language skills and knowledge of the country's rules.

Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, told Gulf News on Wednesday that the ministry is going to implement the two new pre-conditions, but did not give a time-frame.

"A special committee at the labour ministry will be set up in each country to determine the workers' English language skills. Information booklets on rules will be available in the respective ministries in order to educate workers who are about to start work in the UAE," said Dr Al Kaabi.

Workers who cannot prove that they have English language skills cannot work in the UAE. This new rule will not be applicable to workers from the Arab region, and will mainly apply to the Asian workforce. [full report]


"Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain - This Life flies
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once is blown for ever dies."


nativeinformant said...

what exactly do you mean by 'amen'?

DG said...

Well, in my opinion, if this proposal is implemented, it will definitely lead to a drop in exploitation of labour. Most labour related disputes happen now because the workers are illiterate, they don't have any idea about UAE labour laws, their rights, etc.

This proposal is more practical than the high school certificate requirement. All of us know how easily you can get fake educational certificates from these countries.

Good Luck Dr. Al Kaabi.

Grumpy Goat said...

How about basic English skills for people employed to answer emergency 999 phone calls? If it's good enough for building labourers, it must surely be good enough for the emergency services!

marwan said...

Utterly baloney. What's the use of speaking English when emergency services only accept Arabic? As do Labour, Immigration, etc.

They don't need to able to communicate better with other expats.

Anonymous said...



nativeinformant said...

well i got the sarcasm of course, but it is funny to make labourers know english when nationals are clamoring for arabic skills over english. if labourers need to know english shouldn't nationals too? it sure would make banking and emergency calls easier (sarcasm, sarcasm...)

Lirun said...

i have no idea.. but im guessing that your country serves as an aspirational destination for many a poor person in the region who wishes to modernise earn and feed back home..

people who visit your country probably learn about enlightened arabic politics and serve as sattelites of progressive thought..

if there is any truth in this guess - i hope the phenominon doesnt subside..

the west can try all it likes to teach arabs western values but that means nothing.. gentrification of arab productivity is best set to come from champion arab states that can show the way..

then again maybe it will incentivise poor people seeking to come to your country to study in advance - at the very least english language - which in itself could put them on a positive path..

just some thoughts..

clayfuture said...

The ministry of labour never ceases to amaze! Poo!

da tink said...

Yes, very clever. This requirement does not apply to workers from Arab states. Why? Because, idiot (I mean me) they already speak Arabic, which means they can read "the rules" in Arabic. Which is great of course. So they can know the rules, but won't be able to communicate with site supervisors/foremen et al, who will mostly be English/Hindi/Urdu speaking. Nice.

Yes! said...

Thou shalt pay my salary, if not, thy ass be kicketh.

--A Labourer threatening his employer in 2007.

shansenta said...

I feel we all agree that there's an "ailment". But the issue is: how the state is "curing" the "ailment", OR whether "the medicine" is at all "curing" the "root of the ailment".

While Dr Al Kaabi's comment "A special committee at the labour ministry will be set up in each country.." is a good move, the isolation of "Asian" laborers is not in good taste! Equally distasteful is dg's observation:
"All of us know how easily you can get fake educational certificates from these countries"

It is true that at an average, Asian unskilled labourers do not have the English language skills, but it'll be wrong to assume they're unable to express at least in their own language, or ALL these people use fake certificates to gain an entry here!!!

Attacking the root of the problem would be perhaps to ensure a compulsory support system / committee, wherein every labourer has to enrol on arrival to UAE - perhaps at the visa procedure level! This committee could perhaps be an NGO acting as a big brother to them, and may comprise different nationalities to understand their problems in their own language.

Considering UAE to be comprised of 70+ % of expats, I don't think this is impossible? More discussions / ideas please on this...!!!

Anonymous said...

Most subcontinentals who are educated and know English wont be willing to accept 500dhs for working in a construction site

nativeinformant said...


there is a big difference between not knowing English and being "illiterate." Kerala, where many of these workers hail from, might be one of the poorest states in India, but it is also the one with highest literacy rates. I think instead of implementing an English standard (which is hypocritical in a country that claims only Arabic as its national language, and further puts a monetary burden on migrant workers) why not just employ third party watchdogs who know migrant languages? This is definitely NOT set up to primarily lessen exploitation, since exploitation is in the benefit of big business and the gov't in the UAE.

DG said...

Grumpy goat & Marwan, are you guys sure that 999 guys insist on talking in arabic only?

Shansenta, I agree with you. Sorry if you felt offended by my comment on educational certificates.

Native infortmant, I don't agree that UAE government supports exploitation of labour. But yes it is true that businesses do exploit the labourers and the management of most of these companies is also from the same country as that of the labourers. You cannot blame the government for this.

And now when the Ministry of Labour is trying to remove or at least lessen this exploitation, we should support it.

One such step is increasing the number of Labour inspectors from 140 to 400 by the end of this year. In 18 months, the number of inspectors will become 1,000.

Another step is the electronic linking of UAE to main labour exporting countries to eliminate labour contract scams.

nativeinformant said...


i still have to disagree with you. While middle management may be from the subcontinent, in the end UAe citizens have control over sponsorship, and the government lets them get away with confiscating passports, non-payment of wages, terrible housing and working conditions, and a slew of other outrageous behavior. If gov't was really concerned with worker welfare, there would be more centralized migration control, and not a kafala system. There would also be easier access to legal help for laborers, which they cannot get now b/c gov't offices are not even open on the one day they might get off from work - friday. I have spoken to a lot of Asian people who work at all levels in the UAE, and knowing English is the smallest of their problems. The issues are much more systematic and go back much further. The gov't may not be directly responsible, but hardly doing anything about exploitation is a form of endorsement, in my book.

dinka said...

If Arab workers do not come under the purview of these rules, there must be a reason...has anyone heard the term "discrimination"?

shansenta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shansenta said...

As I commented above, the govt. needs to think deep into the root of the problem and wholeheartedly try to solve it from there.
My personal observation over the very few years I have stayed in UAE, is that there's a tendency to propose knee-jerk solutions most of the time! Along with labour problem, (which has comparatively strongly surfaced perhaps recently), shooting rents, innumerable amendments to visa rules, etc. are just a few examples.Don't we see a common pattern in this?
Thankfully however, I feel Shk Mo's direct intervention in some of the long-running problems have really helped finding win-win solutions.
I'm sure, if the ministry takes deeper insights into the processes and systems, they would be able to come out with practical, and WIN-WIN solutions too!

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