The Dark Side of Dubai
Migrant laborers compose 60 percent of Dubai's population [source: National Geographic]. But the workers who make the city's growth possible suffer from treatment that the independent investigatory group Human Rights Watch calls "less than human" [source: Human Rights Watch].
Workers usually enter the UAE already deep in debt, having paid recruiters in their own countries large fees for jobs, visas and plane tickets. When they arrive in Dubai, employers often seize the migrants' passports and withhold two months' pay as security.
When paychecks finally arrive, they're dismally low. While the average per capita income in the UAE is the equivalent of $2,106 per month, the average migrant worker receives only $175 a month and often lives in a labor camp far outside of town. To prevent the in-demand workers from competing for better salaries, construction companies often have employees sign contracts pledging exclusivity to one firm for at least two years.
Building skyscrapers and artificial islands is also dangerous work. In 2004, the UAE government listed only 34 work-site deaths, but foreign embassies reported 880 [source: Human Rights Watch]. Although the UAE does have federal labor laws, contractors who mistreat workers or withhold wages are rarely punished.
The involuntary servitude of many construction workers, combined with a brisk business in commercial sexual exploitation, puts the UAE on the U.S. Department of State's Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. While men find themselves trapped in debt bondage, women recruited as domestic workers or secretaries often are forced into involuntary servitude or prostitution. The UAE also serves as a transfer point for women trafficked for labor to Oman and Sudan and men to Iraq.
Although the UAE passed an anti-trafficking law in December 2006, it has yet to prosecute offenders. The government also continues to detain and deport trafficking victims who have committed crimes while in servitude.
To learn more about Dubai and Dubai's attractions, take a look at the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- "10 High-Falutin' Horse Races." Forbes Traveler. http://www.forbestraveler.com/luxury/horse-races-slide-1.html?thisSpeed=20000
- "About DIFC." Dubai International Financial Centre. http://www.difc.ae/about_difc/index.html
- "All that glisters..." The Economist. December 13, 2006. http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8422344
- "Democratic Governance, Constitution, UAE." United Nations Development Programme. http://www.pogar.org/countries/constitution.asp?cid=21#sub1
- "Dubai: Migrant Workers at Risk." Human Rights Watch. September 19, 2003. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2003/09/19/uae6388.htm
- Dubai World Cup. http://dubairacingclub.com/dubaiworldcup/
- "Dubayy." Encyclopaedia Britannica. http://search.eb.com/eb/articl-9031319
- Eamon, Javers and Dawn Kopecki. "Why No Outrage from Washington?" Business Week. October 8, 2007, Issue 4053.
- Engber, Daniel. "How United Are the United Arab Emirates?" Slate. March 7, 2006. http://www.slate.com/id/2137275/
- Fattah, Hassan M. "Beyond Skimpy Skirts, a Rare Debate on Identity." The New York Times. October 19, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/19/world/middleeast/19dubai.html
- Fattah, Hassan M. "In Dubai, an Outcry from Asians for Workplace Rights." The New York Times. March 26, 2006.
- Molavi, Afshin. "Sudden City." National Geographic. January, 2007.
- Reed, Stanley. "Wall Street in the Desert?" Business Week. October 8, 2007, Issue 4053.
- Ringle, Ken. "Dazzling Dubai." Smithsonian. October 1, 2003. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/dubai.html
- Saunders, George. "The New Mecca." From "The Braindead Megaphone," Riverhead, 2007.
- "Summary." Human Rights Watch. November, 2006. http://hrw.org/reports/2006/uae1106/1.htm#_Toc149111147
- "Think Local." The Economist. December 13, 2006. http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8413009
- "Trafficking in Persons Report." United States Department of State. June 2007. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/82902.pdf
- "UAE: Address Abuse of Migrant Workers." Human Rights Watch. March 30, 2006. http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/03/28/uae13090.htm
- "Questions Remain in Aftermath of Dubai Ports Deal." NPR, All Things Considered. March 10, 2006. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5257025