Construction Labourers Exploitation in the UAE

Executive Summary

The intent of this study is to sketch and analyse the ethical quandary confronting building companies and labour contractors in the UAE with regard to accusals of bluish collar worker development. In order to make this, we foremost understand what is meant by the term ‘exploitation ‘ , which is when an person is treated below the belt and taken advantage of, along with its deductions in the field of building. The demand for companies to work laborers can be attributed to the rapid gait of growing in the UAE before the planetary fiscal crisis, necessitating them to maintain up in a extremely competitory belongings market.

Arguments for and against the laborers will be outlined with regard to the instance of Arabtec, a transnational building degree Celsius company headquartered in the UAE, who faced a quandary when 40000 workers, who were portion of the squad working on the Burj Khalifa, chose to riot and travel on work stoppage mentioning bad on the job conditions, substandard lodging and low rewards. The position of the workers can be understood through the application of a deontological moralss theory, Kantianism. On the other manus, Utilitarianism, a consequentialist theory, can assist us look at it from the company ‘s point of view. Finally, after seting both sides of the statement in position and understanding the quandary, we can suggest solutions such as unionisation, proactive attacks and rigorous enforcement of labour statute law.


What is Exploitation?

Exploitation, in economic sciences, political economic system and sociology describes a grim societal connexion where people are non cared for and treated below the belt, to other people ‘s advantage. This is with correspondence to a certain ethical impression on development – handling people as a field means to an terminal or as objects. In another look, it means utilizing people for their resources, without sing their personal wellbeing. Those states that are invariably being scrutinized of development are the developing states – chiefly, in position of the world-wide economic system

Well-known trade names such as Coca Cola, Nike plus many more are involved in development. To a certain grade, it is the competitory nature between administrations that drive them to utilize such processs to capitalize on net incomes. For illustration, Nike employs cheap labor in Southeast Asia since this allows them to get away from the rigorous ordinances and enforcement in Europe and USA. Coca-Cola have received incrimination for scaring workers worldwide and even using para-militaries to destruct brotherhood leader. The vesture industry excessively, has been harshly condemned for investing perspiration store like conditions in mills in East Asia. ( Shah. A. 2006 ) .

Fuelled by Dubai ‘s rapid past growing:

Dubai seems like the perfect vacation finish for many tourers who enjoy the Sun and its beaches. Celebrities are attracted to the broad scope of munificent flats that Dubai hosts. But underneath all the physical attraction and flashiness of Dubai, there is a fighting immigrant work force life on the border and a dark universe of development. It consists of most of the ambitious edifice constructions in the universe and is widely recognized for its singular substructure and 24/7 building. However, although these developments seem sensational, the labor that goes into it and the people who do it, is extremely unattractive

Dubai ‘s economic system, as a consequence of the recognition crunch, has suffered a serious ruin, since it is to a great extent dependent on its existent estate, fiscal services and touristry. Those who toil in the heat constructing houses for the affluent, now face more force per unit area than earlier. ( Goozee R. 2010 ) .

Arabtec Case Study:

Arabtec Construction is a transnational endeavor that deals with building. Its central offices are situated in Dubai, UAE. In 2008, Arabtec was thrown into the center of scandalous accusals about the cleanliness of its labor cantonments. A newsman from Panorama followed some workers back to Arabtecs ‘ labor cantonments and was repulsed by what he witnessed. Sewage had poured out everyplace across the cantonment and to avoid stepping on it, the laborers created a tract of rocks to walk on to acquire to and fro their adjustment. One lavatory was short of H2O. Arabtec received a mulct of 10,000 AED for the sewerage muss. Another study claimed that cantonments were congested, with about 7500 workers populating together, allocated to about 1248 suites with scarce fresh air. ( BBC, 2009 ) .

With their developer Nakheel fighting and non paying them, they had to do certain demands and faced legion unannounced obstructions. A immense sum of Arabtecs ‘ workers earned lower than $ 160 on a monthly norm and faced what is known as “ pay development ” and “ risky working conditions ” . Developers and authorities have been under force per unit area due to worker protests associating to labor jobs. In 2007, approximately 40000 Arabtec building laborers remained closeted in their cantonments without go forthing and abstained from working until their claim for a $ 55 wage addition per month was met. After a work stoppage that went on for 10 yearss, the workers agreed upon returning one time they settled an understanding with Arabtec on a 20 % rise ( Bakr. A. 2007 ) .

Arguments for the rights of the Laborers

What or who are laborers? To be put into simple footings, they are the cogs that sustain a flourishing economic system. They may besides really good be the custodies that have built Dubai. Had it non been for their difficult work, the U.A.E. ‘s economic system would non hold been where it was today, a booming 1. As mentioned before, development or modern twenty-four hours bondage has become a job in the U.A.E. , particularly in Dubai. Very small visible radiation has been shed on the state of affairs that laborers have been confronting in the U.A.E. ‘s building industry. The following will concentrate on the defence from the laborer ‘s position about the jobs they face daily.

Migrant workers in the U.A.E. do up more than 80 % of the population, of which 1000000s are in the building industry, consisting of a figure of different Asiatic nationalities. Most of the clip their attempt and difficult work goes unnoticed and in the terminal they tend to be shunned from society. Merely because they are non every bit equal as some of the people who have received higher instruction does n’t intend that they have to be treated otherwise and a blind oculus be turned to the jobs that they face. The laborers have a right to be treated with equity and nonpartisanship, and non merely a signifier of expendable work force.

Deontological ( Kantian ) Analysis:

Harmonizing to the theory of Kantianism, we can judge people ethically by their sum of desire to make the right thing. Categorical imperative 1 provinces that a individual should move from moral regulations that can be applied universally. Construction companies in the U.A.E. by and large do non be given to follow this regulation, even though the cosmopolitan criterion for humane intervention of laborers has been set down. Categorical imperative 2 provinces that people must non be treated as a agency to an terminal. It is clearly apparent that the companies do do usage of the laborers as a agency to an terminal. Laborers are by and large worked overtime because the people sitting behind their desks want their undertakings to finish on clip, with no respect to the agony that the laborers go through by working for 12 hr consecutive displacements.

Tricked with the promise of a better tomorrow:

Construction companies and enlisting bureaus tend to do full usage of the laborers insufficiency, by giving them empty promises. It by and large starts off with the brawny sums that the workers have to pay to the enlisting bureaus back in their place state. The fees runing anyplace from $ 2000- $ 3000, most of which the workers had to borrow from others in order to procure a on the job visa for U.A.E. The building companies besides follow suit, by keeping the passports of the laborers upon their reaching. Harmonizing to studies, interviews with the laborers have had them say that the companies would state them that they would have free lodging at the labor cantonments, merely to gain that they were met with shanty town conditions hidden from the public position. The life conditions were so bad that the workers were populating stuffed many to a room, in such close propinquity of each other.

Harmonizing to the article that was posted by a BBC intelligence newsman Ben Anderson, documental grounds showed that populating quarters of the laborers hired by Arabtec were rather worse off. The malodor of natural sewerage filled the cantonment, with the sewerage deluging the cantonments. One of the lavatory blocks had no H2O supply and the latrines were filled with hemorrhoids of natural fecal matters. Governments besides released figures that showed that around 7500 of Arabtec ‘s laborer ‘s shared 1248 suites with hapless airing, which is approximately 6 workers cramped into each little room. But the vaulting horse did non halt at that place. Arabtec had besides promised its workers proper rewards, but in fact they were paid rewards than what they were originally promised, which was even lower than the international labor pay criterion. Workers would be lucky if they even received their rewards on clip, because about every clip their pay wage was either delayed or non even paid. If we put ourselves in the laborers state of affairs, we would non even be able to last on the meagre rewards that they receive.

Held like captives against their will:

The job is that some of the laborers do n’t experience like revenging over fright of losing the occupation they have even during the recession, because there are possibilities that they could be sent back any clip since the company is keeping their passport. Some of the laborers, who could non stand the unfair intervention from the company, have held protests, but consequences merely ended up with many of them being jailed or even deported. This was besides because there was no possible manner for a workers brotherhood to be present in clip of dialogue.

Construction companies like Arabtec need to understand the importance of giving acknowledgment back to their workers alternatively of governing over them with fright like modern twenty-four hours slaves. They must understand the importance of the laborers, because if they were all to go forth so the building industry would fall in in the U.A.E.

Arguments for the defence of the companies

Utilitarian Analysis:

With the application of a consequentialist theory such as Utilitarianism, we can understand why one can reason that the actions of building companies can non be judged as unethical. In order to use Utilitarianism, we must look at the greater good that the actions achieve and the entire benefit/happiness generated, weighed against the injuries.

By working the laborers to their full potency, in order to prosecute the net income and growing aims of these companies, they were able to build 100s of concern towers and residential composites, making places and office infinite, which is good to 10s of 1000s of occupants and enterprisers in the UAE. The UAE authorities besides benefited greatly because the repute of the state as a fast growth, metropolitan metropolis was enhanced, and this helped pull tourers and foreign investing. Arabtec itself was responsible for the building of the Burj Khalifa, a monumental construction, the tallest in the universe. The overworking of a few 1000 laborers seems like a little monetary value to pay for the entire good that was achieved as a consequence of the actions of these building companies, therefore we can non merely nickname them as unethical.

Position of the companies:

It ‘s really easy for us to indicate our fingers at building companies and labour contractors in the UAE and impeach them of below the belt working their workers. However, moralss is ever two dimensional and it is important that we besides look at it from the point of view of companies such as Arabtec. Corporate Social Responsibility is conceptualized through a pyramid in which ethical duties are prioritized after economic and legal duties.

Companies such as Arabtec, Al Habtoor and Al Futtaim Construction have conducted their operations good within the UAE labor Torahs, statute law and safety demands, while they have a right to prosecute high net income borders because they have a responsibility to present good returns to their stockholders. It is besides important to understand that these companies were portion of a really competitory belongings industry until the fiscal meltdown hit the UAE a few old ages ago. Therefore it was necessary that they take advantage of the work force available to them in order to keep the growing degrees they required during the UAEs building roar. Their lone other pick would hold been to non take any action and hazard losing out market portion to other big building companies. ( Abdul, G.2008 )

Position of the laborers:

By looking at the issue from the workers point of position, we should recognize that about all these work forces come to Dubai to get away the poorness that they face in their place states, where they are left to endure, unable to happen occupations. Bruce Fenton, a newsman who visited Dubai, was told in an interview with a local cab driver, that laborers choose to remain in the UAE because even though they are worked hard, it is better than what they would confront back place in their ain states. Several of these laborers come from poorer parts of states such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, where they would be left with no pick but to populate on the streets or dice, if they chose to travel back.

Furthermore, these workers made their ain determinations to come to Dubai, because they saw it as a land of chance, and they were non forced to make so by the companies that hire them. Although some critics argue that some laborers are greatly in debt when they arrive in the UAE, holding borrowed big amounts of money in order to do the journey, is it truly fair to keep employers accountable for the personal determinations of these persons? No it is non, because the companies responsibilities merely include paying them the rewards they were promised in a timely mode and supplying them with good working conditions, non counterbalancing them for any debt they may hold incurred because of bad personal picks

The Government – Sharing the incrimination:

The lone ground that some companies can still move irresponsibly when covering with their labor work force is because of what we believe is weak labour Torahs in the UAE, which are hardly existing and do non give foreign workers the rights they deserve. In most instances, even the Torahs which do exist are non decently enforced by official establishments and regulative organic structures. Therefore it would be unreasonable to merely impeach building companies of development, since the statute law is non implemented strongly plenty to forestall workers being taken advantage of.

However, recent findings such as the followers, show that the scenario is bettering – the Dubai Municipality issued several new compulsory demands for migratory laborer lodging, including the demand of catered nutrient, a lower limit of 40 square pess of infinite per individual, the proviso of equal airing, air conditioning and lighting, every bit good as a minimal figure of lavatories, proportionate to the figure of workers populating in each cantonment.





Number of undertakings



Peoples working on-site



Man-hours worked



Lost-time incidents






Lost-time incident rate



Fatality frequence rate



Beginning: Build Safe UAE

( Redfern, B.2010 )

The above statistics, published by the Build Safe Organization, the lone company that conducts research related to on site building, show that incidents in which clip was lost have fallen by over 100 between 2008 and 2009, despite an addition of about 100 in the figure of undertakings. The cardinal statistic is the figure of human deaths which was reduced by 50 % , from 20 building related deceases to merely 10. This research reflects the tendency that building safety degrees are bettering as a consequence of the freshly imposed statute law in 2007, and that companies are non handling workers unethically or below the belt.

Puting it in position

Government may be partly responsible for their weak labour Torahs, but still the whole load can non be placed on them. If we go through it step by measure we can see that first, the load autumn upon the bureaus that make false promises to these hopeful workers and lead on them into paying a fine-looking sum of money as initial fees in order to work abroad. It is the bureaus fault for funneling these workers into a system where they do n’t have any of what they were promised. Alternatively, these workers end up in hapless life and working conditions with low wage and small range of refunding their debts which they inherited while seeking to accomplish their dreams of holding a better tomorrow for their households and paying the bureaus their fees. The authorities should decidedly look to happen and halt these bureaus from pull stringsing these workers. Many companies have claimed that they know nil about what these bureaus are making and how they bring these migratory workers to the state.

This brings our focal point to the companies who should besides accept portion of the duty for the unfairness that happens to their workers. The companies should be held accountable for the hapless conditions their employees are surrounded by and do an honest attempt to better these conditions. These companies are good within their legal rights in making the bare lower limit and supplying these labourers merely what the jurisprudence requires them to. Corporate societal duties puts economic duty as the first precedence, so the companies are good within their rights to look for achieving a higher net income border instead do more than what is required of them.

It can besides be argued that these workers are in fact life in better conditions and acquiring higher wage than they would hold if they had stayed in their place states. They may hold been promised more money and more chance by these bureaus, but they receive 3 repasts a twenty-four hours by jurisprudence and income higher than what they got in their state.


It is the sentiment of our group that there are certain steps that may be taken in order to repair these labour favoritism issues. First, it will decidedly better the working conditions the authorities changed their ordinances on how workers must be treated and paid. If the authorities takes the base in altering their Torahs that benefit the workers so companies would be obliged to listen and supply their employees with better rewards and adjustment. The unionisation of the work force may besides be a start to a better hereafter for the labour force. UAE is among a selected few who do n’t let a workers brotherhood and in most cases work stoppages by laborers lead to exile. Permiting labour brotherhoods to organize will give these laborers a locale to voice their concerns and grudges. Second, companies should enforce stricter safety ordinances that will guarantee the safety of their employees both in the on the job topographic point and in their life environment. Arabtec along with other companies have blamed the workers for their ain hapless life conditions indicating to their deficiency of hygiene, but if they impose rigorous safety Torahs and learn the workers how to remain safe and unrecorded in a germ-free environment so such issues can be avoided. Companies can besides alter their ways and go a small more proactive by puting their ain criterions higher than what is required of them. Companies should hold ethical Torahs which protect their workers from favoritism and handle them with equality. If they set their criterions higher, non merely will the workers be happier and more satisfied it will besides actuate them to work harder.

In decision, companies should n’t inherit all the incrimination sing everyone can has a portion to play ; even the workers ; in doing the labour state of affairs better in the UAE.