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Migrant workers and construction in the Gulf

As part of our work to highlight risk to migrant workers in the UAE & Qatar construction sectors, we have conducted two surveys of construction companies, prompted by international scrutiny of working conditions on flagship projects in the two countries ahead of the Qatar World Cup 2022 and the (now 2021) Dubai Expo.

The surveys invite construction companies to answer questions on their approach to migrant workers’ rights, in response to worrying reports of debt bondage, unpaid wages and dangerous living and working conditions.

Construction is well-known globally to be a high-risk sector for labour violations, particularly for vulnerable groups like temporary migrant workers who make up the vast majority of the workforce and population in Qatar and the UAE. Our 2018 human rights primer for construction companies outlines the risks to migrant workers in four Middle Eastern countries - Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE – and it sets out recommendations on the steps companies should take to address abuses in the sector.

In view of changing labour laws in Qatar and the UAE, and shifting industry trends to promote worker welfare, we conducted two surveys in 2016 and 2018, asking companies with operations in Qatar and the UAE to answer questions on the actions they are taking to protect migrant workers on their projects. The second also assessed improvements in the sector between the two years. Only 14 companies responded to the survey in both years, representing a non-responding majority of 86 out of 100 companies in 2016 and 35 out of 49 in 2018. The below database lets you explore and compare companies' responses and identify non-respondents.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Gulf in 2020, we surveyed 14 construction companies on the steps they were taking to protect migrant workers from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Seven of the companies and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy provided a response. The results can be read here.

For further information on our Gulf work, see here.

2018 Briefing

On Shaky Ground: Migrant Workers’ Rights in Qatar & UAE Construction

2016 Briefing

“Wall of silence”: Construction industry failing to tackle abuse of migrant workers in the Gulf