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Exploitation Unveiled: Domestic Workers Face Blatant Violations in the UAE

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Domestic workers in the UAE experience clear violations despite the existence of the 2022 domestic workers law, which still lacks sufficient safeguards.

Migrant Rights, a specialized organization advocating for migrant worker rights in the Gulf region, has affirmed that migrant domestic workers in the UAE continue to face significant neglect of their rights, despite their pivotal role in supporting numerous families.

The organization stated that domestic workers in the UAE, like other Gulf countries, play a vital role in managing family affairs by providing multiple services, from caring for children and the elderly to cleaning and cooking.

Domestic workers remain excluded from labor laws across all Gulf countries, with only four nations having implemented specific legislation for this group, excluding the UAE.

The organization asserts that these laws are notably inadequate in the areas they address and in their enforcement, as they lack mechanisms like labor inspection or integration into the wage protection system to oversee contract violations.

The working hours of domestic workers in the region already exceed the working hours in the private sector, which are usually set at 8 hours a day.

In contrast, the maximum working hours for domestic workers was set at 12 hours per day in the UAE and Kuwait, and 10 hours in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Laws in Bahrain and Oman do not stipulate a maximum working hours.

In the UAE, the domestic worker’s law issued in 2022 still suffers from significant gaps in protection and gives employers relatively dominant power. In the same year, Dubai Police arrested 948 domestic workers on charges of “escaping” during the month of Ramadan.

In addition, domestic workers in the Emirates suffer from serious violations, which makes their reality based on slavery and human trafficking, in light of the government’s failure to establish legal mechanisms to protect them.

Domestic workers in the UAE are compelled to work non-stop and shoulder heavier workloads compared to typical expectations.

The exploitation within households was exacerbated by the adverse impact of the pandemic on the employment sector. With the imposition of a ban on new recruitment operations and the prolonged closure of employment offices, the black market for domestic workers experienced a resurgence.

Domestic workers are distinct from other foreign workers as they fall outside the scope of private sector labor laws and instead are governed by a less stringent regulation, namely the Domestic Workers Law.

The majority of domestic workers in the Emirates are females who work as domestic workers, nannies, and cooks and reside in the employer’s home, as they are legally obligated to do so.