Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East

Return to research Posted on Apr 17 2012

Indonesia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a major achievement for migrant workers across the Gulf. Adopted in 1990, the Convention establishes basic rights for migrant workers, including the right to form trade unions and the right to safe working conditions – guarantees which are not currently available in much of the Gulf. Though Indonesia signed the Convention in 1993, ratification entails a much greater commitment to ensure these labor standards are met by migrant-receiving nations.

The effects of Indonesia’s ratification may reverberate throughout the region; Gulf nations are encouraged to take preliminary steps to comply with the convention for all migrants, rather than to create a separate set of laws to employ Indonesian workers. Unfortunately, bilateral negotiations sometimes produce irregular rights that only benefit one particular nationality. For example, “minimum” wages for migrant workers varies in Saudi Arabia depending on the specific deals negotiated by each country. The minimum wage for Sri Lankans is $200/month while Filipinos make at least $400/month. Recently, domestic workers were guaranteed $160 to $213/month, but uniform conditions of employment still do not exist for foreign workers.

But because other migrant-sending nations have announced intentions to ratify several new requirements for migrant labor, Gulf nations can use this opportunity to avoid the disruption in migrant service often caused during negotiations by unilaterally enforcing the Convention. Most migrant-receiving nations have either not signed or not ratified the Convention, but the increasing demands for labor justice from migrant-sending nations inevitably pushes them towards compliance.

GCC, Legislation, Research, Working conditions

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Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East