In many Gulf States, foreign workers make up well over 90 percent of the private sector workforce, with Indian migrants representing a substantial portion of these workers. While there is a long history of Indian labor migration to Gulf Cooperation Council countries from states such as Kerala, new corridors from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have emerged as employers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continue to seek new sources of low-cost labor to fill manual labor vacancies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state) had surpassed Kerala and other southern Indian states as the leading source of Indian workers for low-wage jobs in Gulf countries. As travel restrictions are lifted and construction, hospitality, and service sectors in Gulf countries return to pre-COVID-19 levels of activity, we expect the employers to further increase their demand for low-wage workers from Uttar Pradesh (UP). This labor market is predicated on a labor market in which workers are exposed to risks of forced labor, such as debt bondage (due to high recruitment fees), wage deception, contract substitution, and other unethical recruitment practices. These leave workers vulnerable to further exploitation after arriving at a Gulf jobsite, including forced overtime, deplorable living conditions, and non-payment of wages.
Through generous funding by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), Verité is continuing to support workers navigating risks in new labor markets between Uttar Pradesh, India and the Gulf States. This project focuses on building capacities of partners to provide guidance to workers during the recruitment process in Uttar Pradesh, and to safely navigate systems for addressing any exploitation they may encounter during employment in the Gulf, such as how to utilize the Wage Protection System in Qatar or lodge a forced overtime complaint in UAE.
Project activities will take place in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and in Gulf countries such as Qatar and UAE, as well as neighboring Jordan, another key country employing workers from Uttar Pradesh. Verité is delighted to be working with three partners to carry out this project, integrating Verité’s responsible recruitment expertise with our partners’ strengths to amplify the impact and sustainability of project activities.
Verité has formed a new partnership with Free the Slaves (FTS) to build on their work on the bonded labor of workers employed in India through FTS’ approach to community liberation through resilience. The new partnership between FTS and Verité will work in districts in Uttar Pradesh affected by forced labor in foreign employment by building capacities of community-based vigilance committees to 1) raise workers’ awareness about forced labor risks in foreign employment, particularly during the jobseeking and recruitment process, and 2) monitor for and advocate to address systemic issues contributing to risks workers face when seeking foreign employment from Uttar Pradesh.
In Qatar, UAE, and Jordan, Verité is partnering with Lawyers Without Borders, an organization that advances global rule of law and builds capacity and integrity in the world’s justice sectors. Together, we will be working to train foreign worker advocates to build capacities to provide guidance and assistance to foreign workers to ensure they have timely access to advice on their employment rights and obligations, as well as support for navigating any existing systems through which workers can seek to address a case of labor exploitation during foreign employment.
To enhance workers’ access to guidance and information throughout the entire foreign employment journey — from job seeking to recruitment, employment, and their return home — Verité and Fifty Eight will develop a version of the Just Good Work mobile app for Indian migrant workers. Just Good Work is a free, interactive mobile app providing prospective and current migrant workers important pre-employment and post-deployment guidance in an easy-to-navigate format. Fifty Eight’s work in development of the Just Good Work mobile app, tailored to the needs of Indian workers seeking foreign employment, will result in a digital guidance tool available to workers beyond the length of the project.
Verité looks forward to working with these partners in the coming year to address risks that workers in Uttar Pradesh will face as demand for foreign workers in Gulf countries resumes. In October 2021, the UAE is planning to host the Global Expo, and in 2022, Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup. As well as driving the need for foreign workers, such events will increase global attention on the risks faced by Indian and other foreign workers recruited to work in Gulf countries. This is a key moment to build sustainable resources and guidance for workers.
For more information, contact Sarah Lince at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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