GCC minimum wage uncertain

06 March 2008

The Indian Government appears to have backed down over its demand for a US$ 266 minimum wage for workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the surrounding region (See WCW 27 February).

The announcement by Balkrishna Shetty, India’s ambassador to Bahrain, that India would impose a minimum wage of BHD 100 (US$ 266) for anyone who signs an overseas labour contract from March 1, now seems to have been withdrawn following protests from contractors and government officials, according to a report by UAE daily Gulf News.

The proposal, which would ban Indian workers from migrating to Bahrain without contracts that met minimum wage requirements, could now be withdrawn, reported Gulf News.

The call for a minimum wage has been blamed for an increasing number of strikes over the last few weeks by Indian workers in Bahrain. However, contractors in the Gulf region would be under no obligation to increase the salaries of Indians already under contract.

India’s government said the minimum wage aims to protect its citizens against exploitation, rising living costs and the falling value of foreign currencies against the rupee. It is currently in the process of rolling out separate minimum wage requirements for all categories of workers across the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states.

The minimum wage proposal for unskilled Indian labourers in Bahrain follows October’s implementation of a US$ 265 minimum wage for maids in the kingdom. Last month, India followed this legislation with the introduction of a minimum wage of US$ 299 for female domestic workers recruited to work in the UAE.

An Abu Dhabi-based Indian Embassy official quoted by ArabianBusiness said the law would be soon be followed by a ruling for unskilled Indian labourers, including construction workers.

It is unclear whether the UAE ruling will be affected if the minimum wage legislation is not implemented for Indian migrants to Bahrain.

Indian workers in the Gulf are estimated to number from four to six million, with about one and half million believed to live in the UAE, accounting for about half of the country’s labour force.


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