Discrimination of women migrant workers in Gulf region

Discrimination of women migrant workers in Gulf region

GS II - Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region (known as Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf) hosts about 23 million migrant workers (according to ILO).
  • These workers riddled with problems that are particularly related to the discrimination of women migrant workers.
  • Three-quarters of the workforce of the GCC region hails from the South Asian and South-east Asian countries, and are on temporary contracts and mostly engaged in low-wage occupations.

Vulnerability of women

  • Women account for 39% of migrant workers in the GCC.
  • Women migrants – skilled category – working mainly nurses in the organised health industry.
  • Women migrants – semi-skilled or unskilled category – working as domestic workers, care workers, cleaning crew, manufacturing workers, salon staff and salespersons.
  • These workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. For instance, domestic workers, who are mostly women, are greatly vulnerable to abuse owing to the very nature of their workspace.
  • The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of women migrant workers.
  • For health workers it is more about the deterioration of their working conditions than the problem of losing their jobs.
  • The government wanted nurses to be deployed at the COVID centres, and all the hospitals under the Ministry were asked to send their staff. The private hospitals on the other hand were asked not to function. This drastically increased the burden on the government hospitals.
  • As a result, private hospital staff were asked to go on unpaid leave during the lockdown and the Ministry staff could not even take leave as the situation was declared an emergency.

Stress in the health sector

  • In many countries, the work hours of nurses in many countries were extended from eight hours to 12 hours without overtime remuneration — that too in challenging working conditions.

For semi-skilled workers

  • Many of the semi-skilled and unskilled workers found themselves in a bind when they lost their jobs, wages and their accommodation too.
  • The vulnerability of the workers has worsened during COVID-19 because of the severe restrictions to mobility.
  • Those staying in employer’s premises, especially housemaids are more vulnerable. They did not know what was happening outside, about [the] corona situation. Many women working here, especially housemaids, do not have any medium for getting news about the current situation. Some do not even have [a] phone, while most have only basic phones.
  • Their communication to the outside world including family is restricted and it is difficult for an outsider to reach them.

Other cases

  • Some of the more vulnerable workers were the ones working ‘illegally’. For example, there was a woman who had emigrated on a child-care visa, but lost her job as her former employers were concerned about the safety of their child during COVID-19.
  • The woman then started working as a housemaid with very low wages but was reluctant to ask for a raise, as she feared being reported.
  • Situations such as these have made women workers more vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation.

Source : The Hindu