Migrant Workers at Risk: Trends in Gulf Construction 2018-2019
Migrant workers make up between 60% and 90% of the workforce in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Low-wage construction workers are at particular risk from labour exploitation from their employers, and face abuses including withheld wages, heat stress and other health and safety concerns, restricted mobility, lack of access to grievance mechanisms and remedy, and substandard living conditions.
Construction across the region has been driven by a growing tourist industry and preparations for mega-international events in several countries, including the Dubai Expo 2020, FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar and other sporting and cultural events. Between January 2018 and December 2019, 594 construction contracts were awarded, with a total value of $USD 118.9bn. 82% of the contract value went to international companies.
We found that 89 new construction projects awarded work to companies that have failed to disclose how they protect migrant workers. A further 61 companies who had previously been accused of human rights abuses also won contracts, with 13 of those companies being accused of labour rights abuse in the Gulf.
There was significant growth in the number of contracts for renewable energy projects, most located in the UAE followed by Saudi Arabia. 7 companies awarded contracts for renewable energy were involved in allegations of human rights abuse.
An analysis of projects' clients found that over 81% of the overall monetary value for contracts was awarded by government entities or companies partially or fully-owned by the state, highlighting the significant role states have to play to ensure protection of human rights by construction companies.
The briefing issues recommendations clients and companies on adopting and enforcing robust human rights protections for migrant workers.