Froilan T. Malit, Jr. and Dulce Amor Ledesma
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have increasingly accounted for at least 25 million foreign migrant workers (49% of the total GCC populations), with expectations to cross the 60-million mark by 2030 (IMF, 2015; GLMM, 2016). The large presence of foreign migrant workers places the GCC region as the third largest migrant destination globally, trailing only North America and Europe. Yet, even with the large migration population, the GCC countries have not collectively developed a centralized information dissemination system for migrant populations in the host country.1 The underdeveloped centralized information system between Asian and GCC countries generates serious asymmetric information flows between migration stakeholders (i.e. migrants, employers, etc.), which has direct and complex implications on foreign migrant workers’ rights and welfare (Desiderio and Hooper, 2015; Malit, Jr. and Naufal, 2016). The International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration (2006:2) acknowledges that “providing information to migrant workers on their rights and assisting them with defending their rights” as well as “providing information to employers’ and workers’ organizations concerning the rights of migrants” are vital to the development of effective labor migration management system. In December 2018, the United Nations Global Compact on Migration (2018:23) further highlights the need to establish “… post-arrival programs that may include rights and obligations, basic language training, as well as orientation about social norms and customs in the country of destination.” This critical migration governance gap has thus led to complex and intersecting policy challenges for origin and destination governments, international organizations, and civil society groups in curbing asymmetric information and labor market violations.
In the GCC region2, the post-arrival orientation service (PAOS) model has already been introduced and is currently being piloted at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD), an inter-regional consultative meeting for governments from Asia and GCC countries. The PAOS is a Philippine government’s global initiative to disseminate information to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and has the capacity to mitigate asymmetric information faced by foreign workers.3 The ADD is looking to review and implement initiatives to help migrant workers understand their labor rights and responsibilities (de Leon, 2016).4 However, only the Gulf-based Philippine government missions—through their embassies and the Philippine overseas labor offices (POLOs)—have made the PAOS program available to OFWs in the Gulf. More specifically, in Qatar, the Philippine government, through its embassy and labor office, fully implemented the PAOS program in 2010, educating migrant workers about labor rights and obligations in the host country. This program has become an important resource to reduce asymmetric information, labor violations and distortions distributed by different and complex layers of intermediary brokers within the migration industry.
This paper examines the Philippine PAOS program in Qatar (2010-2015) and explores its challenges and practices in delivering services to OFWs, particularly to domestic workers.5 Using existing government data and secondary policy materials, we argue that the PAOS program is not only a vital migrant protection mechanism in upholding migrant workers’ rights and welfare but also the least implemented program across the Gulf countries, which, to an extent, may contribute to the growing vulnerability of some low-skilled migrant workers. The paper is composed of three sections. First, we examine the Philippine migration to Qatar and more specifically, the domestic work migration to Qatar and of the Gulf countries. Second, we provide a background on the PAOS program in Qatar and identify broader challenges and practices in program implementation. Third and lastly, we highlight the implications of the Qatar PAOS program and offer recommendations to protect migrant workers and mitigate asymmetric information through the PAOS program.
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1 The UAE Ministry of Human Resources has recently introduced the “Know Your Rights Campaign,” helping migrant construction workers better understand their legal rights and responsibilities in the host country.
2 Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea have developed a comprehensive PAOS program to educate foreign workers about their labor laws, culture, and employment relations.
3 In the GCC region, the POLO offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE are also currently implementing PAOS programs, specifically for skilled and semi-skilled OFWs.
4 During the ADD meeting in Dubai, the Philippine government proposed the PAOS program for all migrant workers.
5 This policy brief is mainly derived from the authors’ own direct participation and lectures delivered at the PAOS program in Qatar between 2010-2015. It is intended to shed policy insights and recommendations for the future government officials in the Philippines and beyond who aim to fully understand and implement the PAOS program in Qatar or in other labor-receiving countries in the long run.
Malit and Ledesma (2019) Policy Brief – Migrant Protection by Education