Nearly 90% of Dubai’s 3.1 million residents are expats, many of whom are migrant workers brought in to work on construction projects or in service jobs. Most come alone on the promise of much higher salaries than in their home countries, so they can send money back to their families.
But Dubai and the UAE have long been the subject of complaints of mistreatment of workers. Migrant workers say they often face brutal work conditions, shifts of 12 hours or more, and that companies withhold paychecks or workers’ passports so as not to let them quit or return home. Most workers are brought over by recruiters or recruitment agencies, many of which promise exaggerated salaries or job descriptions that differ greatly from what the workers end up doing… While recent reports from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations acknowledged improvements, both said labor abuses continue.
HRW said the reform laws still allowed employers to charge workers the recruitment fees that can put them in debt. Most of the workers come of their own accord, out of a serious need to make money because their home countries are impoverished. That makes it all the more tragic that the existing system seems set up to exploit them.
The knowledge of how migrant workers have suffered to make Dubai’s vast constructed reality — which is more or less set up to fulfill a person’s every whim, if you have the money to pay for it — makes it hard to recommend it as a place to put your tourist dollars.