Some of the challenges which blue collared workers in the Gulf, face, are poor working conditions, no provision of basic medical facilities, non-payment of salaries and harassment by employers, including confiscation of passports, that often gets ignored.
Tridivesh Singh Maini, Assistant Professor, Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Remittances have played a key role in South Asia’s economic growth. In 2018, South Asia received remittances to the estimate of USD 131 billion, according to a World Bank Report. India had received a significant chunk of this amount, USD 79 billion, and was the largest recipient of remittances not just in South Asia, but globally.
A large chunk of remittances in South Asia, come from GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Muscat and Bahrain – where workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal account for a significant percentage of the work force. If one were to look at the impact of corona virus outbreak on GCC, as of 12 April 2020, the total number of deaths in GCC countries was over 88 with 13213 confirmed cases.
Saudi Arabia is the worst hit country in GCC with 4033 cases and 52 deaths followed by UAE with 3,736 cases including 20 deaths. While Dubai imposed a lockdown on 4 April 2020, Saudi Arabia sealed of parts of Jeddah.
Post COVID-19 Scenario
Post COVID-19 outbreak, the entire South Asia is likely to be impacted by the reduction of remittances, as a result of the likely slowdown of economies in GCC, and the possible return of many workers to South Asia (even other countries like Malaysia and Singapore, which are home to South Asian workers are likely to suffer economically, and a large number of workers could return back).
It would be pertinent to point out, that even before the outbreak of the COVID-19, the slowdown in the Middle East, and migration to the Gulf, from South Asia, has reduced. It is for these reasons that remittances for 2019 had been estimated to be far lesser.
Safety and Security of Workers
For very long, the discussion with regard to South Asian blue collared workers, has focused on remittances. Some of the challenges which blue collared workers in the Gulf, face, are poor working conditions, no provision of basic medical facilities, non-payment of salaries and harassment by employers, including confiscation of passports, that often gets ignored.
At this point of time, the safety of migrant workers from South Asia in the Gulf, and treatment of those infected, as there are a large number of cases, should be the priority of their respective governments and all the rights-based organisations, apart from their subsistence such as access to food and basic requirements.
Advocacy groups have repeatedly flagged the point, that due to cramped accommodation, migrant workers are more susceptible to contracting the virus, as we look at the cases in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar.
Published in: Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement
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