A worker sweeps the floor in the Arabtec labour camp in Jebel Ali, Dubai.
A worker sweeps the floor in the Arabtec labour camp in Jebel Ali, Dubai.

Ministry poll finds labourers satisfied



ABU DHABI // Most construction workers are satisfied with their jobs but many feel they were recruited dishonestly and that wages and food allowances are too low, according to a poll commissioned by the Ministry of Labour. Of the 752 construction workers interviewed by Zogby International in select camps, 69 per cent expressed satisfaction with their jobs and 88 per cent had a favourable opinion of the UAE. But opinions on the recruitment process and pay were less favourable.

The ministry had released the preliminary results of the survey last month, but yesterday's release offered a significantly deeper look into labourers' perceptions. "Workers displayed a greater degree of satisfaction than some may have assumed," the survey's authors said. "It may be that just having a job and being able to send money home to their families while living in conditions that are seen as acceptable, given their circumstances, are enough."

Respondents in Dubai were generally more positive than those in Abu Dhabi - 77 per cent of Dubai workers were satisfied with their jobs, compared with 60 per cent in Abu Dhabi. "None of this should be seen to excuse the failure to address the problems that do come through in this survey - the low level of wages and food allowances, the poor grades given to the recruitment process," the report said.

Labour conditions in the UAE have long been a controversial issue, and the ministry has instituted a series of reforms to improve living conditions and ensure workers' wages are paid on time. But human rights have especially criticised the prevalence of employee-paid recruitment fees. Earlier this year Arabtec promised to move workers out of its Nad al Sheba camp in Dubai within months after a BBC documentary asserted that the camp's 6,000 labourers lived in poor conditions lacking basic sanitation, with raw sewage flowing through the site.

About 2,000 workers have already been moved, according to Lakshmi Montgomery, the company's accommodation and welfare officer. and another 1,500 should be moved over the next three weeks. Yet Zogby found housing less of a concern to labourers than other issues. Half of those surveyed gave a positive rating to housing conditions, 38 per cent were neutral and 12 per cent deeming them "poor". Bigger issues were pay and recruitment. According to the ministry survey, nine out of 10 workers said they had to pay recruiting agents to secure work. More than half described the sums involved as "high", while two out of five rated their recruiters as "dishonest".

The Government has said it will try to tackle the problem of unscrupulous overseas agents, and several property developers have begun recruiting labourers directly to avoid the problem. Some employment agencies demand hefty upfront fees, assuring workers they will be able to repay them from wages. On arrival, the salaries turn out to be lower than promised, making it difficult to meet the payments.

Workers also said that they would like to see pay improved, with 71 per cent giving "poor" ratings to wages and half poorly grading food allowances. Only two per cent said their total family income meant they were able to save money. "When asked to note the most important issues needing improvement, overwhelmingly our respondents point to wages and food allowances," the survey report said. "Housing conditions, health services, timelines of payments and safety on the job received only scant mention." Comparing the two emirates, Abu Dhabi received more positive ratings for wages and prompt payments, whereas Dubai did better in areas such as safety, health services and housing conditions.

lmorris@thenational.ae

The years Ramadan fell in May

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What is a robo-adviser?

Robo-advisers use an online sign-up process to gauge an investor’s risk tolerance by feeding information such as their age, income, saving goals and investment history into an algorithm, which then assigns them an investment portfolio, ranging from more conservative to higher risk ones.

These portfolios are made up of exchange traded funds (ETFs) with exposure to indices such as US and global equities, fixed-income products like bonds, though exposure to real estate, commodity ETFs or gold is also possible.

Investing in ETFs allows robo-advisers to offer fees far lower than traditional investments, such as actively managed mutual funds bought through a bank or broker. Investors can buy ETFs directly via a brokerage, but with robo-advisers they benefit from investment portfolios matched to their risk tolerance as well as being user friendly.

Many robo-advisers charge what are called wrap fees, meaning there are no additional fees such as subscription or withdrawal fees, success fees or fees for rebalancing.

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

How tumultuous protests grew
  • A fuel tax protest by French drivers appealed to wider anti-government sentiment
  • Unlike previous French demonstrations there was no trade union or organised movement involved 
  • Demonstrators responded to online petitions and flooded squares to block traffic
  • At its height there were almost 300,000 on the streets in support
  • Named after the high visibility jackets that drivers must keep in cars 
  • Clashes soon turned violent as thousands fought with police at cordons
  • An estimated two dozen people lost eyes and many others were admitted to hospital 
Three trading apps to try

Sharad Nair recommends three investment apps for UAE residents:

  • For beginners or people who want to start investing with limited capital, Mr Nair suggests eToro. “The low fees and low minimum balance requirements make the platform more accessible,” he says. “The user interface is straightforward to understand and operate, while its social element may help ease beginners into the idea of investing money by looking to a virtual community.”
  • If you’re an experienced investor, and have $10,000 or more to invest, consider Saxo Bank. “Saxo Bank offers a more comprehensive trading platform with advanced features and insight for more experienced users. It offers a more personalised approach to opening and operating an account on their platform,” he says.
  • Finally, StashAway could work for those who want a hands-off approach to their investing. “It removes one of the biggest challenges for novice traders: picking the securities in their portfolio,” Mr Nair says. “A goal-based approach or view towards investing can help motivate residents who may usually shy away from investment platforms.”
The biog

Place of birth: Kalba

Family: Mother of eight children and has 10 grandchildren

Favourite traditional dish: Al Harees, a slow cooked porridge-like dish made from boiled cracked or coarsely ground wheat mixed with meat or chicken

Favourite book: My early life by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah

Favourite quote: By Sheikh Zayed, the UAE's Founding Father, “Those who have no past will have no present or future.”

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside


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