There is no minimum wage. Authorities estimated average salaries, which depended on the occupation and employer, at approximately 400 dirhams ($109) per month for domestic or agricultural workers and 600 dirhams ($164) per month for construction workers. There was little information on public sector salaries.
According to the UNDP, the country’s multidimensional poverty index was 0.002 percent. The percentage of the country’s population in poverty was 0.6 percent.
The law prescribes a 48-hour workweek and paid annual holidays. The law states daily working hours must not exceed eight hours in the morning or night shifts and that companies should pay overtime to employees working additional hours in a 24-hour period.
The government establishes occupational health and safety standards. The law requires that employers provide employees with a safe work and living environment. The law also provides for minimum rest periods and limits the number of hours worked, depending on the nature of the work. For example, the law mandates a two and one-half-hour midday work break, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., between June 15 and September 15, for laborers who work in open areas such as construction sites. The government can exempt companies from the midday work break if the company cannot postpone the project for emergency or technical reasons. Such projects include laying asphalt or concrete and repairing damages in water pipes, gas lines, or electrical lines.
Wage and hour, overtime, and other protections with regard to working conditions do not apply to workers in domestic services, agriculture, and other categories administered by the Ministry of Interior. These workers were more vulnerable to unacceptable work conditions.
The Ministry of Labor was responsible for enforcing laws governing acceptable conditions of work for workers in semiskilled and professional job categories but did not do so effectively in all sectors, including the informal sector. In 2013 the ministry had 364 inspectors divided as follows: 224 in the inspection department (the enforcement arm), 56 in the occupational and health and safety department, 29 in the wage protection department, 30 in the combating human trafficking department, and 25 in the orientation department. According to the Ministry of Labor, its antitrafficking inspectors conducted 5,018 field visits and educational awareness programs for workers in 2013. There was no information available on the informal economy or an estimate of its size.
In April the Ministry of Labor referred 32 companies to the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution for offenses relating to the sponsorship of workers. Authorities accused 13 companies of allowing sponsored workers to work for other companies and accused 19 companies of employing workers not under their sponsorship. As of September 1, the results of the prosecution were not published.
The Ministry of Labor conducted inspections of workplaces--primarily construction sites--throughout the year. According to local media, in 2013 the Ministry of Labor conducted 138,801 general inspections, 11,807 visits to workers’ accommodations, and 80,571 visits to construction sites to verify workers were not working during the peak hours of the summer. More than 1,000 cases of employers accused of breaking labor laws were reportedly referred to prosecutors. The government routinely fined employers for violating the midday break rule and published compliance statistics.
The government took action during the year to address wage payment issues. The government’s vigorous implementation of the WPS and fines for noncompliance discouraged some employers from not paying salaries to foreign workers under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor. The WPS, an electronic salary-transfer system that allowed institutions to pay workers via approved banks, exchange bureaus, and other financial institutions, was intended to assure timely and full payment of agreed wages. According to the Ministry of Labor, 3.6 million workers were registered with and received their wages through the WPS by the end of 2013. In 2013 more than 300,000 “smart pay” cards were in use, and an additional 8,000 to 10,000 new cards were issued and used each month. Penalties for companies implemented by the Ministry of Labor included a 5,000 dirhams ($1,362) fine per worker for wages delayed 60 days. The law subjects companies that did not pay multiple workers their wages within 60 days to a maximum fine of 50,000 dirhams ($13,624). In 2013 there were 284,442 private sector companies registered with WPS and 13,577 workers enrolled in the program. The WPS, however, did not apply to foreign workers under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, including domestic and agricultural workers. In 2013 the Ministry of Labor settled 702 of 2,409 complaints made to the “My Salary” hotline. The ministry dismissed approximately half of the complaints because they did not fit the required criteria for salary complaints.
The government increased its efforts to provide adequate health standards and facilities in the labor camps, including food safety. The Ministry of Labor conducted regular inspections of health and living conditions at labor camps. According to the ministry, it provided labor camps with written documentation on issues to address. The ministry reviewed these issues in subsequent inspections. During some inspections of labor camps, the ministry employed interpreters to assist foreign workers in understanding employment guidelines. The Ministry of Labor operated a toll-free hotline in Arabic, English, and Urdu through which workers were able to report companies that violated break rules or delayed wage payments. Ministry of Labor mobile van units also visited some labor camps through which ministry officials informed workers of their rights. In 2013 the 12 units conducted 56 events and activities for 31,640 laborers.
In June the government instituted a new standard contract for domestic workers. According to the government, the new contract protects domestic workers under a binding agreement between employers and domestic workers. The contract seeks to ensure transparency and provide legal protections. Officials from some labor-sending countries criticized the new process, saying it prevented foreign embassies from reviewing and approving the labor contracts of their citizens. As a result some countries reportedly halted their citizens’ travel to the country to assume domestic labor positions.
The government allows foreign workers to switch jobs without a letter of permission from their employer. Labor regulations provide foreign employees the option to work without an employment contract or, in cases in which a contract was in force, to change employer sponsors after two years as well as within the first two years in certain cases. The government designed this regulation to improve job mobility and reduce the vulnerability of foreign workers to abuse. The regulation, however, did not apply to day laborers, construction workers, or domestic servants.
Violations of wage, overtime, and other labor regulations were common in sectors employing migrant workers, such as construction. Foreign workers frequently did not receive their wages from employers on time, and sometimes for extended periods. The absence of protections for domestic and agricultural workers left them vulnerable to long work hours, nonpayment or underpayment of wages, and otherwise abusive or exploitative work conditions.
Each emirate enforced its own standards for housing accommodations. Dubai emirate requires construction companies and industrial firms to appoint safety officers accredited by authorized entities to promote greater site safety. Some low-skilled and foreign workers faced substandard living conditions, including overcrowded apartments or unsafe and unhygienic lodging in labor camps, some of which lacked electricity, potable water, and adequate cooking and bathing facilities. At year’s end authorities were constructing newer worker accommodations.
Occupational health and safety conditions remained inadequate for many workers, particularly migrants. International media reported that workers on the New York University Abu Dhabi construction project had to pay recruitment fees that were not reimbursed, workers were not allowed to retain their passports, and some men lived in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The government and New York University announced an investigation into workers’ conditions in Abu Dhabi in June. As of October the report had not been published (see section 7.e.).
There were several cases during the year in which workers were injured or killed on job sites due to inadequate safety measures. Although the law requires the government to monitor job-related injuries and deaths, the government registered the cases but did not consistently follow-up on them. In several cases companies were required to pay compensation following the permanent injury of a worker at a workplace. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees who exercised this right.
Reports of migrant worker suicides or attempted suicides continued; the reports frequently linked suicides to poor working conditions, fear of abusive employers, heavy debts caused by exploitative labor recruitment agencies, and low wages relative to high living costs. The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, a quasi-governmental organization, conducted vocational training programs with some elements aimed at decreasing suicidal behavior.