Migrant workers are vulnerable in GCC states 

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Migrant workers are vulnerable in GCC states 

Source: The post migrant workers are vulnerable in GCC states has been created, based on the article “Under Kafala, workers are dispensable” published in “The Hindu” on 17th June 2024 

UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2-international relation-Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. 

Context: The article discusses the death of 49 migrant workers in a fire in Kuwait, caused by poor living conditions and employer negligence. It criticizes Kuwait’s weak enforcement of worker protections and the Kafala system, which limits migrants’ rights and keeps them vulnerable. 

What Happened in Kuwait? 

A fire in Mangaf, Kuwait, killed 49 migrant workers, mostly Indians. 

The fire was due to poor living conditions and an electrical short circuit. 

The Kuwaiti government announced that the officials of NBTC (biggest construction group in Kuwait) would face criminal charges, and several municipal officials were suspended for not enforcing building codes. 

Why Are Migrant Workers Vulnerable in GCC States?

1. Dependence on Employers: The Kafala system ties workers’ visas to employers, making workers dependent and vulnerable. Employers provide housing, food, and transportation, keeping workers in a state of perpetual dependency.

For detailed information on Kafala system read this article here 

Note: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brings together six Arab countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

2. Low Wages: Migrant workers earn very low wages, often below the cost of decent living (KD200), leading to financial insecurity.

3. Poor Living Conditions: Workers live in crowded, unsafe, and unhygienic accommodations, increasing their risk during emergencies, as seen in the Mangaf fire that killed 49 workers.

4. Limited Rights: Workers cannot organize or unionize to demand better conditions, as GCC states do not allow labor organizing.

5. Family Separation: Low-income workers cannot bring their families due to high minimum salary requirements (KD800) to sponsor family members.

Way forward  

Although Kuwaiti officials promised to improve safety standards and enforce stricter penalties, real change is unlikely without systemic reforms that empower workers and improve their rights and living conditions. 

Question for practice: 

Examine how the Kafala system contributes to the vulnerability of migrant workers in Kuwait and other GCC states, referencing the recent fire in Mangaf that resulted in the death of 49 workers. 


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