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Downturn Hits UAE Workers: FT Photostory

On December 21, 2008

This photo story in the Financial Times tells of the impact of the global financial crisis on migrant labourers working in Dubai, who have been employed in their thousands to work on construction sites during the boom years of the Emirate’s real estate sector.

The global recession and recent drop in oil prices have thown Dubai’s property market – once though strong enough to weather any market shock- into chaos, and major construction companies are now laying off staff and cancelling or postponing projects. No surprise that low-paid migrant labourers are the ones that will suffer the most as a result of the downturn, with pay-cuts of up to 40%, or the prospect of losing their jobs. For those who rely on work in Dubai’s construction sites to send remittance money home to their families and communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, lower wages and a shrinking job market will have dire implications.

The FT slideshow gives an insight into the impact of the financial crisis on the lives of the residents of ‘Sonapur’ (which means ‘place of gold’ in Hindi), the area of Dubai where labourers live in prison-like encampments. Human Rights organisations fear that the financial pressure on UAE’s construction sector could undo progress that has been made in recent years to secure rights for migrant workers.

Given the sheer scale of human rights abuses of migrant workers, it is often disappointing to see the lack of coverage that the issue gets in the media. This is why it is particularly encouraging to see Britain's leading business paper running great piece of photojournalism about the lives of those who will suffer the very worst of the fallout from the global financial crisis.