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UAE workforce increases

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DubaiFor the second consecutive year since the global financial crisis, the UAE’s total workforce has registered an increase, the Ministry of Labour said in a recently issued report on its achievements and gains.

According to the report, after the global financial crisis, the number of employees in the country decreased from 4,079,453 in 2008 to 3,889,234 in 2010. The drop continued for another year, but as economic sentiments improved, the UAE once again started attracting workers from around the world and registered a 4,022,815-strong workforce in 2012. The figure increased to 4,026,764 in 2013 reports Khaleej Times.

According to the report, 297,461 private establishments were registered with the ministry last year. The building and construction sector accounted for the largest number of employees at 34.3 per cent; followed by the trade and repair services (23.8 per cent); industries and manufacturing industries (10.9 per cent); real estate, leasing and business services (10.4 per cent); transport, storage and communications (7.6 per cent); hotels and restaurants (4.7 per cent); and others (8.3 per cent).

Ministry initiatives

The report examines the initiatives implemented by the ministry designed to ensure job stability, and to guarantee that the rights of workers are fairly parallel to those of the employers.

Initiatives include the wages protection system (WPS), job transfers and new work permits. These initiatives are designed to create further flexibility in the labour market and to strike the right balance in the contractual relationship between the employer and the employee.

The total number of work permits issued last year stood at 41,439, as compared to 31,919 in 2011, while part time work permits registered a significant increase at 6,785 as compared to 879 in 2011.

The ministry’s policy represents a new approach to cater to the needs of the employers by making available to them the workers currently present in the labour market. This basically makes it a ‘cycling process’, reducing the need to hire workers from abroad and helps in retaining highly productive skilled workers in the country. This helps in making the shift to knowledge-based economy, said the report.

Work permits are issued in accordance with the applicable rules and standards, in response to the requirement of the employers for well-trained and qualified workforce. It helps in curtailing the costs of hiring employees from outside the country.

The ministry also issued 600 work permits for juveniles, a service it provides to the private establishments to recruit an Emirati or an expatriate from inside the UAE, and whose ages are 15 and not more than 18. The permit is valid for one year, the report revealed.

Labour accommodation

Workers’ housing has seen a remarkable change in the standards, which now comply with international best practices. The area of a residential compound now match the number of its occupants. As per the rules, companies are required to meet the necessary requirements of the workers in their accommodations, in addition to meeting all their health and safety requirements.

The ministry took measures to ensure that the companies are in compliance with the prerequisites and conditions on housing, and laid down stringent punishments against the defaulters, especially grievous violations. Punishments ranged from financial penalties stipulated by the law, or referring the defaulter to the public prosecution.

Minor violations were dealt with by alerting the errant companies to rectify the irregularities, which was followed by ministry inspections to ensure adherence.

The number of inspection visits to labour residential compounds last year stood at 6,422, as opposed to 8,064 in 2012, 12,258 in 2011 and 4,022 in 2010.

Health and safety

The ministry is currently working on drawing up a programme for the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Standards for the construction and building sector in the country. The programme aims at creating a secure environment to maintain a high standard of occupational health and safety; provide protection for the workers; and ensure the interests of employers, which in turn help in stabilising the labour market and increase production.

The ministry attaches great interest to occupational health and safety in the labour market by carrying out many programmes and conducting periodic visits to labour residential compounds and work sites. It is also keen on implementing the best international practices in the field of industrial and construction security through local partners and renowned international expertise houses.

Private recruitment agencies

The Ministry of Labour has laid down regulations to organise the process of bringing in temporary contractual labourers through private recruitment and labour supply agencies. In 2011, the ministry set down its legislations to rectify any malpractices that could be encountered at labour-exporting countries.

These regulations take into account the principle of transparency. A worker hired from abroad can review the terms of his employment and the letter of offer prior to coming here. This can help streamline contractual employment in the UAE.

The ministry appointed legal researchers to settle labour disputes when looking into the complaints submitted to the Labour Disputes Section at the ministry.

The ministry also enforced the midday break rule, which protect workers from working in the open under the scorching heat of the summer season so as to provide a proper work milieu to workers.

The ministry placed the human trafficking issue within its top priorities and fought it with all means on hand. The ministry held several workshops to enlighten workers and make them aware about their labour rights and acquaint them with the legal manner to file a labour complaint.

The ministry held 456,000 events; 41,394 symposiums, lectures and workshops; and handed out 1,085,000 booklets and brochures in which they explained labour rights.

Emiratisation

The MoL recruited 800 Emiratis at the Tas’heel service centres, and ensured that Emirati employees get unified monthly pay at all branches of Tas’heel in addition to other financial privileges which depend on the productivity of the employee. That resulted in the employees obtaining a remunerative monthly salary, which secures a decent life to them and their families.

In 2011, a new scheme was launched to classify private sector firms registered with Ministry of Labour. This scheme is based on specific criteria aimed to come up with a fresh mechanism to localise jobs and attract the UAE nationals to the private sector.

Under the scheme, a new category has been created to prompt companies to localise jobs by giving them some privileges in exchange.