Pakistan migrants to UAE paying excessive labour costs, survey shows

A new survey has found that migrant workers from Pakistan could be paying almost 13 times the official rates for a chance to work in the UAE or Saudi Arabia.

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ABU DHABI // Pakistani workers are paying about 13 times the official costs to work in the UAE or Saudi Arabia, a survey has found.

Labourers each paid more than US$2,000 (Dh7,340) to move to the UAE, according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) study.

UAE law requires a migrant who has secured employment in the UAE to pay an overseas recruiter about Dh730 to Dh1,100.

“When jobs are in one country and workers in another, the final cost of job matching becomes vitally important because most financial costs incurred during the recruitment process are likely to be borne by the prospective migrant worker,” the report said.

Pakistani workers were each paying an average of Dh9,314 to work in the UAE, it said.

The employment visa accounts for 77 per cent of costs, agent’s fees 7.8 per cent, and flights and transport fees 7.1 per cent.

The survey also found that 67 per cent of migrants borrowed money or sold their belongings to cover the expenses.

Of these, about 91 per cent borrowed from family members, relatives or friends, while 33 per cent sold their jewellery, household goods or livestock.

The Pakistani government should better regulate the migration process for overseas employment to control the costs, said Anna Engblom, chief technical adviser for the ILO’s South Asia labour migration governance project.

“If the system in Pakistan worked honestly and well, then in theory there should have been a small gap between the official fee and the actual visa fee paid,” she said.

Pakistani officials should communicate with employers in other countries to control the visa fee amount, Ms Engblom said.

According to Pakistan’s bureau of overseas employment, the UAE is the second most popular destination in the Arabian Gulf.

Ms Engblom said workers should be aware of the costs before leaving their home country.

“With almost a million workers leaving annually for the GCC region this is not an easy task,” she said.

The ILO has established two migrant resource centres in Pakistan to provide such information to workers.