West indian countries

Why are Indian migrant workers dying in the Gulf countries

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recorded the most deaths of Indian workers between 2019 and 2021, authorities said in response to a question from parliament.

In 2020, more than 3,753 Indian employees died in Saudi Arabia and this number fell to 2,328 in 2021. Both years had been marked by the pandemic, which led to welfare and employment crises for the employees other than Covid-19.

What about other Gulf countries?

Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain have recorded the deaths of Indian workers.

Indian workers work on a construction site in Dubai

With over 35 lakh, the UAE has the largest Indian expatriate community, recorded at least five deaths per day between 2017 and 2021. The number of deaths increased from 2,454 in 2020 to 2,714 in 2021. In the Meanwhile, Qatar reported 420 deaths in 2021 and 385 in 2020.

In five years, deaths of Indian nationals have almost doubled in Oman, going from 495 deaths in 2017 to 913 deaths in 2021 (630 deaths in 2020). Bahrain reported 352 deaths in 2021 and 303 deaths in 2020.

Qatar is experiencing an influx of Indian workers due to development work associated with the upcoming FIFA World Cup. The country has seen the death of Indian workers numbering 420 in 2021. 385 Indian workers died in Qatar in 2020.

Bahrain reported 352 deaths of Indian nationals in 2021 and 303 and 211 in 2020 and 1,201 Indian laborers died in Kuwait in 2021.

What are the causes of death?

Indian migrant worker working in a site

There are many reasons for the deaths of Indian workers, including unsafe working conditions. According to a study published in the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health in 2018, the common cause of their death is cardiac arrest, heart problems, traffic accidents, falls from heights, drowning, suicide , strokes and infectious diseases.

According to a report by TOI, the high number of deaths among Indian nationals in Kuwait apart from Covid-19 is mainly due to harsh lifestyle and working conditions, intense physical and mental stress and lack of medical awareness. Moreover, debt and stress also cause deaths in the Gulf countries.

Deaths of South and Southeast Asian workers

According to an article published in The Guardian, more than 10,000 migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia die each year in the Gulf countries.

Indian migrant worker working in a site

The report says more than half of deaths are unexplained and recorded as ‘natural causes’ or ‘cardiac arrest’. Gulf countries are failing to investigate the real reason for the death of migrant workers.

In the Gulf countries, low-paid migrant workers are exposed to several risks, including heat and humidity, air pollution, overwork and abusive working conditions, poor health and work safety, psychosocial stress and hypertension.

In fact, long hours of manual labor at high temperatures could lead to heat stress and possibly organ damage.

More than 30 million migrant workers (mainly from Asia and Africa) are employed in the Arab Gulf countries. Around 80% of them are employed in low-wage sectors such as construction, hospitality and domestic work.

Why do Indians migrate to Middle Eastern countries?

Indian migrant worker working in a site

According to the report by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs titled International Migration 2020 Highlights, India tops the list for having the largest diaspora population in the world.

More than 18 million Indians lived outside the place of their country of origin. It is significant that most NRIs (7.6 million) live in the Middle East.

While data from the Ministry of External Affairs (2020) showed that around 13.6 million Indians live outside India, of which 3,41,000 live in the United Arab Emirates. 2,594,957 Indians in Saudi Arabia, 12,80,000 Indians in the United States, 10,29,861 in Kuwait, Oman hosts 7,79,351 while Qatar 7,56,062.

Indian nationals migrate for education or work and arrive in the Gulf, especially for employment opportunities.

Indian workers are working on the construction site of a building

During the 1970s, with the oil boom in the Gulf and monetary growth, countries began to invest heavily in infrastructure and development work. The door to employment opportunities has opened with this development in the region.

An influx of migrant workers from countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh started especially semi-skilled and unskilled laborers. Lower class Indians also find it an opportunity to earn money.

At present, however, the labor supply is not limited only to semi-skilled and unskilled labor, but also to white-collar jobs such as doctors, engineers, architects, etc.

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