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18 Nov 2022


The cost of living: migrant workers' access to healthcare in the Gulf

The first Vital Signs report outlined in detail how low-paid migrant workers in the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council are subject to a wide range of cumulative risks to their physical and mental health. These risks originate from the workplace, their living conditions (encompassing their accommodation and their broader neighbourhoods), and the environment, and include: heat and humidity; pollution; abusive working conditions, which often include excessive working hours and heavy physical workloads; lax occupational health and safety (OHS) practices; exposure to long-term chronic psychosocial stress; and, in the case of female domestic workers, acute vulnerability to physical, psychological and sexual abuse...

Its key findings are as follows:

  • Easy access to healthcare is particularly critical for low-paid migrant workers in the Gulf due to the multiple adverse health conditions that can result from their work. The GCC states’ healthcare services are generally not tailored to the specific needs of this population, and there is obvious evidence of discrimination in access to healthcare for migrant workers, with lack of documentation and affordability the most significant obstacles.
  • The inability of low-paid migrant workers to easily access non-emergency healthcare services has a detrimental effect on the general physical and mental health of this population, and it is likely that it is a significant factor both in the number of preventable deaths, and the high rate of unexplained deaths.
  • The gradual shift in the region to mandatory private health insurance is more likely to further restrict access to care than to improve low-paid migrant workers’ access to healthcare