Gulf Cooperation Council

New UAE-ILO programme to set example in developing labour market governance

The ILO and UAE launch a new joint programme to improve labour market information systems and governance in the Gulf State, the first such example of collaboration with the ILO in the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

Press release | 23 May 2016
ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat (left) and UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization Saqer Ghobash
ABU DHABI (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a new strategic technical cooperation programme during an event in Abu Dhabi on Monday 23 May.

The programme – “Innovation in labour market governance” – will see the ILO Regional Office for Arab States and the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE) working together to improve labour market information systems and foreign labour governance.

This will be achieved through upgrading information systems, improving labour inspection, and implementing mechanisms for dispute resolution and improved access to justice for all workers.

“The UAE labour market is strong, and strengthening labour market governance is extremely important for our national agenda,” said UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization Saqer Ghobash at the launch event.

“The UAE always strives for the best, and detailed analysis and studies that are built on a strong technical foundation will allow us to develop efficient labour market policies,” Ghobash continued.

The UAE hosts some eight million foreign labourers – equivalent to over 80 per cent of the country’s resident population – making it one of the largest foreign labour-receiving countries in the world. With Emirati nationals mainly employed in the public sector, foreign workers constitute the bulk of private sector employment.

The MoHRE therefore faces a number of challenges relating to labour market governance. Following an ILO scoping mission to the country in 2014, the Ministry approached the Organization to work together on developing the two-year project to address these challenges. The UAE is funding the initiative’s $US 1.9 million budget.

Improving labour market governance

“This new project will equip the ministry with modern and state-of-the-art tools to govern the labour market, show the ministry’s leadership role in ensuring decent work, and set an example for other countries in the region to follow,” said ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat in her address at the event, which was attended by MoHRE and ILO officials and members of the national and regional press.

“Such collaboration between the UAE and the ILO is a first of its kind in the GCC region, and that other countries in the region have expressed interest in following suit. And here I wish to applaud his Excellency the Minister Saqer Ghabash for his leadership towards improving working conditions for temporary expatriate workers through taking a number of initiatives, including the Three Ministerial Decrees, which came into force earlier this year,” Jaradat continued.

She said strengthening labour market governance will help the UAE meet labour market needs and foster inclusive economic growth and development.
Jaradat and Ghobash also met separately on the sidelines of the event to discuss further collaboration between the ILO and the UAE, and anticipating and addressing future challenges to the world of work in the region.

Kinan Bahnassi, the ILO Chief Technical Advisor in charge of managing the project, explained that the project will work on providing policy makers with the tools and analysis capacity to orient labour market and labour migration policies; strengthening the labour inspection system towards preventing abuse of workers and addressing occupational safety and health issues; and developing individual labour-dispute prevention and settlement mechanisms and to improve access to justice for workers.

The project will contribute to the UAE’s long-term policy framework, Vision 2021, and to its overall national development agenda. The Gulf state is host to the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, a regional consultation process launched in 2008 and aimed at improving temporary contractual labour mobility in Asia.