One outstanding feature about the United Arab Emirates is its workforce demographic composition and the region’s striking disparities in the working conditions of imported laborers. Generally, most of the United Arab Emirates government’s laborers comprise locals Emiratis, while foreign immigrants overwhelmingly dominate various sectors including the private spheres. The region’s workforce has no minimum wage. Most of the region’s workers are not allowed to form organizations and unions. Due to these factors, at one point, the United States of America was forced to suspend the United Arab Emirates from the country’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation and programs.
Generally, the United Arab Emirates is on a mission to improve the rights and comfort levels of the region’s foreign workers. Through the UAE’s Federal National Council, the organization is going an extra mile in ensuring that most of the region’s foreign laborers have good working conditions, fair wages and proper housing. Despite the efforts made by the UAE in ensuring that the region’s foreign workers live in normal conditions in the Emirates region, the EU is also fronting for maximum enhancement of human rights and respect of fundamental freedoms by the United Arab Emirates government. Generally, the EU feels that the UAE is not doing enough efforts in improving the foreign employees’ working conditions and living standards in the region. This aspect has created a lot of controversy between the two bodies. Through the NFC chairperson, the body has come out denying some of these allegations and claims. The body top hierarchy claims that United Arab Emirates is big enough to conduct its own affairs and handle the foreign workers in the region.
Although the NFC chairperson’s denial of the allegations made by EU on poor conditions in which the foreign workers in the region work and live, most laborers in the United Arab Emirates are still seeking for various improvements during their stay in the country. Complaints made by the foreign residents in the region regarding the issue outlined above have so far fallen to deaf government ears. Most foreign residents complain of small rooms of about 10 square meters, which they have to share. In some cases, certain residents were lamenting with regard to about poor hygiene in their living rooms. One resident expressed his frustration about the tiny room he was staying in, which would only accommodate him, his television set and an old refrigerator. What is more, the residents claim that they are not in a position to properly arrange or divide the kitchen stuff from their living rooms because of the small nature of their rooms. The stuff in bedrooms also piles up in the residents’ living rooms.
Some of the Egyptian residents in Dubai who were interviewed during research claimed that they have to share a single and small room. These living conditions generally annoy most of the foreign laborers in the UAE. The three Egyptians claim that they are even lucky to be sharing the room with other two people, because in some cases six individuals end up sharing the rooms.
Most foreign laborers in the United Arab Emirates work for a few dirham monthly, and with respect to the money earned, most of it goes back home. However, they prefer these hustles rather than those back in their country. Nadim Udin, a foreign resident and an electrician in the United Arab Emirates, says that he came to Dubai six years ago but despite the poor living conditions in the country, he has never wished to go back home. In essence, most foreigners have fear mainly due to the poor living conditions. This issue was initially raised by the EU, although the FNC responded by dismissing the claims. In this case, the FNC claimed that the foreign workers are provided with favorable working conditions, better wages and proper housing.
By the year 1997, Kuwait as an Arab nation was boosting with a population of about 2,152,775 people. Most surveys conducted in the country stated that Kuwait was registering a high growth rate rather than in most parts of the world. However, the nation’s population comprises Kuwait nationals and expatriates or foreigners. In a country such as Kuwait, most expatriates are engaged in labor services to enhance their living standards back at home. They generally provide the country with their services. Some of the sectors that most foreigners engaged in include the commerce and banking sectors, construction areas, cleaning services, and manual workforce.
Generally, Kuwait’s population statistics is difficult to determine due to its Arabic nature “asbidoon” and the introduction of illegal immigration among the foreign labor force. In this Arabic nation, the homeless Arabs or the people without nationality usually descend from desert Bedouins, thus individuals who failed to nationalize themselves during the early 1960s combined with some of the migrants from neighboring countries. Most foreigners in Kuwait come from Asia and other Arabic countries, and constitute approximately 70% of the working population.
Most foreigners in Kuwait have mainly ventured in sectors such as roads infrastructure, communication links, city structures, and industrials activities. They generally play an important role in the country, and the absence of foreign laborers in UAE would translate to no prosperity or less development in the Arabic nation. Despite the positive aspects of the foreign workers in Kuwait, he latter’s foreign labor force faces various challenges and problems associated with the local population. In most cases, Kuwait’s local people do not appreciate the domination of various work forces by the foreigners. This tends to create problems in the living environment of the foreigners in the country. Most of the foreign employees occupy the less prestigious living areas in the country. However, they mostly focus on sending money back home for their relatives and families.
It is possible to trace the spread of expatriate labor force in Kuwait with much consideration to the industrial revolution, and the conditions of the laborer houses during this period from the United Kingdom’s perspective. One significant factor to consider is that before the industrial revolution, Europe was largely an agricultural continent with a population that was relatively dispersed. However, the United Kingdom was experiencing an increase in urbanization and commercial activities, which was an outcome of the industrial growth. With these improvements, the ordinary people in the region enjoyed higher living standards, and as a result, Britain was becoming richer.
Alternatively, the region was featuring a population increase, which had a wide-ranging implication to the labor force make-up and education in the region. A number of people were trying to get the appropriate education necessary for meeting the labor demands. For this reason, there was an increase in expatriate labor force, necessary for meeting the demands of the growing industries. An overflow of the expatriate labor force prompted other people to move away in search for suitable places to live and work in, taking into consideration that the population increases meant poor living conditions for the labor force in the area in question.
With the increasing population, lack of proper regulations on the rate of putting up structures had a great effect on the living conditions of the people. Many of the poor people in Britain during were living in overcrowded places and grimy conditions. The laborers in this region were living in horrid houses. The houses had small windows on the sides, which was not efficient enough to let fresh air into the house. The construction of the houses was done in terraced rows, which had a small yard. The toilets used by the residents in the region were communal and in very poor conditions. Of these people, some were not able to afford beds, and instead they chose heaps of straw, still in the poorly ventilated and damp houses.
Skilled workers were living in dwellings that were not joined at the back. Their lifestyles were better, but the fact that the towns were becoming overcrowded made their lifestyle rather unbearable. One thing that was affecting all the residents in the region was the ruthless exploitation they were going through on the part of their employers. Apart from constructing unsanitary and shoddy houses for the workers to live in, the laborers were subjected to high rents. However, some employers and manufacturers such as Robert Owen, a cotton magnate and social reformer, had the will to come up with good housing for their employees.
However, through time, during the early 19th century, the councils of the area banned cellar houses by passing some of the councils’ by-laws. Consequently, the councils prohibited the back-to-back houses prompting demolitions. These houses were later replaced with better ones, which was a step in improving the living conditions of people. The inappropriate dwelling places in the beginning drove some of the skilled laborers, who were moving away from the area to better places, where they could live and work in. Some of these laborers migrated to other areas like Kuwait, where they were exporting their expertise.
With the passing of the council’s by-laws and the housing improvement implementations in the early 19th century, brought about great transformation in the housing system. The new housing regulations led to the construction of much improved houses. Most importantly, the focus was on the increase of the housing supply in the region, which would be a step in making sure that the people from the United Kingdom would live in a better environment relative to the 19th century’s housing units. Consequently, the increase in supply would mean that the houses would be cheaper and affordable to the members of the community.
David Mullins and Alan Murie argue that there was a need to change the planning systems, which were to be in line with the changing housing demands of the British community. The implementation of the new planning systems would ensure that there is an increase in the housing supply, which would be more affordable. In order to attain the objective of ensuring steady housing supply, the government was relying heavily on the private sector. Meeting the changing public housing demands for the private sector is a challenge, which contributes to reducing the effectiveness of the policy changes. The latter were also inclusive of building good quality houses for rental purposes, ensuring that the dwellings are affordable and offering help to people who would want to buy a house. The most important aspect of the policy changes was to provide the vulnerable people with the much-needed support. The priority of the housing policy is to ensure that the people have a home that they can live in.
There is a uniform rental policy in the United Kingdom, where the rental prices of houses are meant to be somewhat at par with mortgage requirements. This policy encourages home ownership, regardless of the existing poor conditions. With this, it would be rather difficult to determine the distribution of expatriate labor force in the United Kingdom. Conversely, for the council homes, the UK government gives priority to the local people after which they consider migrants. Most recently, the United Kingdom has been working hard to ensure that housing systems in the region are not part of the UK problem, taking into consideration the housing volatility in the region. In doing this, the United Kingdom has introduced self-financing to enhance support transfers, as well as gave out aid along with investment opportunities, broader regeneration of efficiencies and profits, and more affordable housing.
Migrant Labor Housing Facilities in Texas, the United States
Laborers in the United States also face challenging aspects when it comes to housing costs and policies. Generally, the United States housing system takes its residential bigger share in terms of their raises. In the United States, such aspects as one-week house salary pay do not exist because of economic changes globally. This aspect has affected various issues including the settlement schemes of the US residents. In this case, the US laborers are among the lowest earners according to the US economy. Most of the US laborers are foreigners. One major problem the foreign laborers face is concerned with poor facilities.
Generally, it is imperative to rate the housing policies in the United States of America as a labor challenge, especially when housing costs are higher than the utility itself. In most cases, the housing costs in the United States take a bigger share of the resident’s raises. In America, the aspect of one-week salary pay for the house rent no longer exists. The change in economy around the globe has affected some of these issues. Currently, the United States economy shows that most of the low-income laborers or foreigners earning peanuts still endure problems when it comes to housing facilities. In a state like Texas, the migrant farm workers hardly maintain a good nutrition due to the inadequate facilities. As part of their strategy, the migrant’s farm workers prefer short-term rental houses on private house providers. Other migrants prefer to live in quarters, which in most cases are controlled by their bosses. Provision of housing depended largely on the location. They also vary depending on their configurations as well as sizes. Examples of this situation are the apartment houses. In most cases, the wealthy lived in the apartments. Families initially constructed normal housing units and trailers.
The major problems that most migrants in Texas faced included crowing and sanitation. Generally, the issues of housing types affected the sanitation levels in the migrants housing units. The latter were always crowded, hence affecting the quality of the facilities. The foreign workers in the Texas state were between 700,000 to 1.4 million. These foreign workers played an important role both with regard to the society and to the general US economy. Agriculture was the most critical sector. The agricultural production sector spans cultivation and the production of fruits and vegetables. In Texas, some migrants’ workers opted to live in makeshift shelters so that they could carry out the duties, and in this case, the farm work. In other instances, the individuals would travel in migrant streams.
With the closure of some of the migrant labor camps, there was an aggravation from the farm workers. However, in comparison to some of the slums, where the farm workers were forced to go to, the labor camps had better living conditions. It is possible to attribute part of the poor access with regard to the housing problem to low income, but the housing problem is limited to several factors that include high land prices, as well as the non-existence of land in some areas. Conversely, there are very few developers concerned with low-income housing projects because the profit margins are slim. Apart from the economic factors, there are social aspects that prevent access to good housing. This includes the large families in these areas. Even though getting and maintaining an affordable home in the United States has continued to be a problem, especially for the working class in the country, current housing intrigues make the problem direr for the workers than ever before. With the absence of subsidy initiatives, low-paid workers spend more than half of their salaries for housing (Bennett, 2006).
City of Laborers in Kuwait
With Kuwait’s large oil reserves, it is a rich country. Globally, Kuwait is among some of the wealthiest nations in the world. Generally, the nation under consideration has a small population of about 3 million people. Kuwait’s labor force participation for the ages of 15-24 was 35% by 2011. However, the figures were at 37.2% in the 2000. This remains the highest percentage for the past 21 years. In 1990, the figures were on the lowest value standing at 28.6%. In 2011, the labor force rate in Kuwait for the female workers aged 15-64 equaled 44.8%. This meant that the country’s highest value for the past 21 years stood at 47% the year 2003. Consequently, its lowest value by the year 1990 stood at 79.7%. Generally, the country’s labor force participation for the population aged 15-54 stood at 69.7% by the year 2011, with its highest value standing at 70.5% by the year 2005. Meanwhile, the country’s labor participation rates for the female population aged over 15 years equaled 43.4% by the year 2011, while its highest value stood at 45.3% by the year 2003. In this case, the country’s lowest figure by the year 1990 was equated to 34.7%.
Figure 1. Age distribution of Kuwait Population
Most of the country’s domestic workers are foreigners and come from such nations Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, India and Indonesia. Most of these are Asian countries. In a country like Kuwait, which is invaded by foreign workers, trouble is imminent especially regarding the excessive numbers of foreigners in the country. Recently, the foreigners’ population has become a major issue despite the increasing public criticism of Kuwait’s economic development. The public is currently blaming the expatriates for Kuwait’s fall of wage and subsidy bill. They accuse the foreigners of draining the government finances.
Figure 2. Age distribution of Non- Kuwaitis 2010
Services Provided by the Foreign Laborers
In Kuwait, most foreigners engage in labor services, which appears to be important in enhancing their living standards back in their mother nations. The foreigners generally provide the country with their services, be it manual labor or office work. Generally, most foreigners engage in services such as manual jobs, construction areas, commercial and banking sectors as well as cleaning services. However, most foreign employees in Kuwait work as manual laborers in such sectors construction sites including building of roads and houses. Foreign females in Kuwait mostly are domestic workers in the majority of country’s homes.
Kuwait Foreign Laborers
The problem of Kuwait’s government housing systems is that it is unable to cater for the housing demands of most Kuwaiti families. Currently, there are more than 32,000 house applicants in the country and the number is on the increase recently. However, the National Housing Authority is trying to increment the housing projects by generally accelerating the construction procedure and by increasing the building activities. One common method employed by the authority is using the fabricated building systems in housing projects. Generally, the companies also act as sub-contractors or, in some cases, they specialize in selling the units. The contractors companies also produce various precast elements. These businesses also work on projects such as office buildings, electric sub-stations, pedestrian bridges and waterfronts. Most Kuwait foreign laborers live in small houses with a capacity of 2 to 10 members.
This situation is different for the expatriates in Kuwait. Currently, Kuwait’s government does not allow the country’s expatriates community to buy property in Kuwait. However, many foreigners and foreign laborers in the country are still hoping that the law will change in years to come and reverse the situation. Before then, the expatriates have only the option of renting their homes. Foreign laborers in Kuwait tend to live in apartments or compounds. This is because Kuwait’s economy has rapidly developed, hence contributed to a sudden invasion of foreign laborers in the country. On its part, the government had to construct apartment blocks instead of individual houses to accommodate the increasing number foreigners in the country.
Generally, the rental homes and apartments in the country are smaller compared to most of the apartments that the Kuwaitis live. The majority of the rental homes are either one-bedroom apartments or single room homes. However, the skyscraper buildings are rather spacious for families. In Kuwait, the single-family homes are called the “villas.” Most foreign workers in Kuwait live in single houses with compounds or in apartments. In Kuwait, the word ‘compound’ refers to various small houses. They were generally low-level houses or, in some cases, they meant apartment blocks, which are within an enclosure that is walled. A country like Kuwait has a large number of compound homes. Most of these compound homes cater for the international community or the foreigners in the country.
The compounds have generally smaller apartment buildings while others have single houses. Some compounds also have swimming pools and tennis courts depending on their sizes
The apartment blocks have higher expatriates proportions. The bad thing about these apartment blocks is that they lack the extensive facilities, which most compounds have. Just next to most of the apartments are compounds, which look like ghetto. They generally have characteristic of claustrophobic ‘clubbiness’, and are isolated from other apartments. They also lack privacy and are not secure.
Single houses or villas have recently gone up to almost 2,500 KD, but in most situations, this depends on the luxury levels of the homes. Many foreign laborers are however provided with housing allowances, which help them in offsetting their rents. Most family houses, especially those in foreign laborers’ compounds, are usually built around a majilis. The latter is an Arabic word to mean “place of sitting”. Majilis is generally regarded as the heart of an Arab home where a family can sit and socialize with visitors. In most cases, they are located after the entrance of the house.
With the increasing population, there is a consequential demand for housing, considering the fact that more people are getting into the country. Statistics indicate possibility of supplying the housing requirements.
. Table 1. State of Housing in Kuwait
One common characteristic among the expatriates housing systems is the sharing apartments by different families. In most cases, the majority of families prefer to buy and share flats or apartments for the purposes of saving money. Additionally, the Kuwait economy does not allow them to own their own apartments. Therefore, it is more economical to share homes. In other cases, the foreign workers in Kuwait are usually forced to live in housing camps. As a matter of fact, the latter are usually overcrowded, while other housing camps lack bathroom and adequate cooking facilities. In some of the housing facilities, at least 10 expatriates have to share rooms despite the squalid conditions. The housing facilities also lack adequate running water. In most situations, the expatriate workers are allowed off the housing camps only through permission granted to them or on company buses.
The housing situation is so different from the Kuwaitis working in the private sector or government institutions. Generally, the Kuwait government provides most of its workers and citizens with housing facilities. Through the country’s national housing body, the Kuwait government has given six companies the precast work. The six companies which are truly professionals act as sub-contractors. The Kuwait government has also allowed the businesses to specialize in selling the units. The contractors companies also produce various precast elements. Through these companies, the Kuwaitis are provided with better housing facilities as compared to the expatriates. The situation is similar to the laborers working in the private sector companies.
Alternatively, most Kuwait citizens working in the private sectors such as in petroleum companies or as university professors, have beautiful and attractive houses. Some of these private sectors are better paying, hence the laborers are in a position to afford better living conditions and better housing systems in the country in question. In most cases, the private institutions provide their workers with very good and quality housing systems. The houses are either fully furnished or the laborers are offered basic facilities in their homes. The exterior and the interior of the private sector houses are always of high quality. The companies keep on improving the houses to make them more attractive for their workers. Generally, the houses are more spacious compared to the housing systems of the expatriates in Kuwait. The rooms are generally large and can accommodate up to 20 members of the family.
The mansions and most homes have generous patios or gardens. Most of the private sector houses have gymnasium and swimming pools. Additionally, the homes have better maintenance levels just like western countries. Most houses have garages for their vehicles while other dwellings have underground car parking. The government and the private sector houses have separate garage from their homes. At least every house has a carport if not an underground parking.
The scenario is almost similar among people working in small private companies most of them are Kuwaitis. However, a smaller number of foreign workers are also employed in such companies. Some of the smaller private companies provide their laborers with complete housing systems. Many of the people have different ways of life in that the expatriates always have to depend on themselves when it comes to housing systems and the way of life, while the Kuwait’s laborers have the option of being supported by the Kuwait government in terms of their housing systems. Generally, most Kuwait’s small private companies do not have enough resources to cater for all the needs of their workers; instead, they provide cheaper accommodation facilities for the employees. In this case, the small private companies offer temporal housing facilities their temporal workers. The temporal facilities in this case are either hotels or mini apartments. Generally, the housing facilities provided by the small companies are temporal as a rule. In most cases, the small private companies offer short-term contracts after which the laborers have to move out of the facilities upon the end of their contracts. Usually, the laborers do have to pay any charges for the housing facilities provided to them by the small private companies. Most laborers working at the small private firms in Kuwait get to enjoy some of these benefits. This situation is different from employees working with as governmental janitors.
Governmental janitors in Kuwait are custodian caretakers or cleaners. In the country under review, the government janitors are professionals who ensure that state buildings such as schools, government offices, hospitals, and residential housing facilities are in good condition. Their primary responsibility is to clean the Kuwaiti’s government premises. However, in some cases the janitors also carry out duties such as maintenance and security provision. Most of the government janitors in Kuwait were expatriates meaning they earned so little hence among the poorest paid sector. This means that most of the janitors live poor life in low quality houses. In most cases, the governmental janitors’ housing systems range from shared apartments to camps. In most cases, the apartments have common areas such as toilets and other facilities. Government contractors are responsible for maintaining some of these facilities. Generally, contractors were tasked with regard to ensuring that the facilities adhered to safety and sanitation levels. Such residential areas were always overcrowded.
Governmental expatriate laborers housing facilities have limited personal space with most of them ranging from 24 square feet to almost 68 square feet. In one case, there are four bathrooms on every floor. The bathrooms are usually locked for supervisors’ use. Most of housing systems have common units, whereby such things as washing facilities and kitchen equipment had to be shared. The expatriates’ housing has kitchen equipment, which are open sheds with almost 100 gas burners.
Temporary work or temporary contract labor is a general outlook where the laborers are expected to depart the organization or a company within a certain period. In most cases, the temporary laborers or employees are called “seasonal”, “contractual”, or “casual staff”. In Kuwait, some contract laborers refer to themselves as experts or consultants. Temporary contract laborers in Kuwait hugely depend on the companies they are working for to provide their accommodation. Most companies offer some of their temporary contract laborers temporal housing facilities for the period they would be working for the company. Temporal housing facilities that the companies provide for the temporal workers include hotels and mini apartments. During their stay at the housing facilities, the contract laborers do to pay any housing charges. In some cases, the temporary contract laborers have to search for accommodation facilities themselves. In this case, most temporary contract laborers live in poor quality housing systems. Dealing with a seasonal job, the laborers usually are not carried away to live lavishly. Therefore, they end up living in small apartments and compounds that they can easily afford.
It is possible to trace the current laborer’s housing situation in Kuwait through history in order to determine the capacity of the houses, with the consideration of the number of people living in the apartments. Despite the governmental policies concerned with housing, it has been hesitant to provide housing to the migrants. For this reason, the laborers are responsible for paying their own rent, which averages at about 60 KD for an apartment with a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. This amount is about 120 USD. Some of the small workers prefer to live together in a single house in order for them to share rent amongst themselves.
According to 2011 statistics, the expatriates in Kuwait represent about 50 percent of the country’s population, which is slightly above 1.5 million people. Among the 50 percent, more than 60 percent of the expatriates fall under that category of single workers who receive low income and participate in the service and marginal activities. In Kuwait, it is not possible for the expatriates to own property since this is a privilege given to the citizens of the country. One of the ways through which the expatriates are able to access housing is by renting. The rental housing market in
Kuwait is diverse, with an array of housing categories that suit the family make-up, income and living style of the expatriates. The white-collar expatriates have the opportunity to rent high-end villas of luxurious apartments, with prime locations that would suit their lifestyles. On the other hand, the less-skilled workers, as well as the marginal single workers, can only manage to live in single-roomed apartments or dormitories.
Borrowing from the new 2010 Kuwaiti labor law number six, all the laborers in the country have the right to have access to adequate housing. This means that the employers that handle government projects should be able to provide transport and accommodation for the employees who live in the outskirts, without deducting any amount from their entitlements.
In case the employer does not provide housing for the employees, they should be capable of paying for their housing allowance. A specification of the outskirts, the conditions that govern suitable accommodation and the criteria of providing the accommodation, should be a ministerial decision. Apart from this provision, the Kuwaiti plan is to designate some areas for the private sector to invest in rental housing that will serve the Kuwaiti nationals, as well as the migrants. The plan also designates areas meant for private housing, which will essentially serve the diplomatic missions in the country and some of the Kuwaiti families.
The main reason for developing the plan is for ensuring that the expatriates as well as the citizens will have equal access to housing. On the other hand, the plan will act as a regulator to the housing market, which will ensure that there is an increase in housing supply to the expatriates. Consequently, the plan was seeking to convert some of the areas designated for housing Kuwaitis; to areas that the private developers can invest in as far as housing developments are concerned. This conversion was done in a formal manner, but other regions were converted informally. Most of areas that were converted were dilapidated that were waiting for redevelopment, or the places where the owners could not develop until the conversion. With their inability to continue the housing advancement, the owners of the construction were renting the properties to brokers, who would then sublet the apartments to the single expatriate low-income earners. Since the expatriates were many, they had to share the apartments not only because of their large numbers, but because the rental prices were high for a single person to secure an apartment for himself or herself.
Table 3. Population density in Kuwait’s provinces
Source: Report-Performance evaluation for dept. of state contracts to assess risk of TIP violations in Gulf States – 2011
Recent UN-Habitat and Kuwaiti surveys in the year 2010 indicate that most of the workers, especially those of the Asian and Arabic origin, live in congested houses. The survey conducted in six Kuwaiti cities, indicates that the migrant laborers live in a group of about fourteen people per room. The six cities include Salmiya, Hawalli, Bnied Al-Qar, Khitan, Glieb El- Shieoukh, and Farawania, where the migrant workers were sharing a single room in an apartment unit. Most of the workers were secondary tenants, who lacked job security, and each of them was paying about 10-15 KD per person. On the other hand, some of these workers were not only depending on the income from their salaries, but they were owners of some of the shops in the region, where they could get additional income for their sustenance. The workers were living in these conditions since they did not consider it as a problem, despite the poor living conditions in the apartments.
Figure: Income and rent for low-income single expatriate workers living in six surveyed areas, 2010
Source: State of Arab Cities: United Nations Human Settlements Program (Clos, 2012)
Quite a number of the migrant workers were comfortable living in these conditions since some of them were stating that the housing situation in the region was slightly better that the situation in their native countries. On the other hand, they preferred living in the area due to the good proximity to services and work. With the cheap housing available for them, it was possible for the workers to maximize on their savings in order to be able to send some of the remittances back home for starting businesses or buying buildings there. Saving money to remit back home was not the only reason for choosing to live in such conditions, since, in additions, enduring such circumstances also gave them the opportunity to interact and live together with their counterparts of the same origin.
In order to address the group housing needs in the different cities, the Kuwait government came up with a Kuwait Master Plan that would ensure that all people would have access to adequate housing. On the other hand, the plan was aimed at developing the dilapidated areas in the region, which would assist in the provision of housing for the migrant workers in the different Kuwaiti cities. The aim of the program was to provide group housing for the single expatriate workers in the region, which would help in the reduction of the number of people living in a single room in an apartment unit. Projections from the plans indicate that by the year 2030, the densities in the households would have reduced to approximately 50%, meaning that the number of people living in a single room would decrease from about 14 people, to an average of eight people in a single room. Consequently, the plan provides for the construction of additional 55,000 units after every ten years, which is a move that would take care of the gradual increment of migrant workers into the country.
An Analysis of the Project, “the City of Laborers”
The housing rights of the migrant laborers, who comprise more than 50% of the laborers in Kuwait, need special attention. One vital factor to consider in the improvement of the housing situation in the country is confined to the fact that the migrant laborers try to maximize on their remittances, which appears to be a drive that prompts them to bear with their poor living conditions. This factor affects not only the migrant workers in Kuwait but also those from other regions. Initially, governments were exhibiting a reluctance to assume responsibility for the privately sponsored workers in their nations, but this trend is changing, and many of these governments are reconsidering their position concerning migrant workers. The reforms look into ways of ensuring that they meet the international labor standards in order to address the issue substantially.
In Kuwait, the situation was not different. Expatriates in the region were receiving low wages, which were so little for them to afford rental housing, even at the prevailing market rate. The government increased the minimum wage of migrant workers to 40 KD per month, following several protests in the year 2009. Despite the improvements with regard to the minimum wage, migrants’ housing conditions were not pleasant since they were experiencing water shortages, electricity loss and a lack of sanitation in their living areas. They were enduring these problems in tandem with social abuses that some of the migrant workers were going through, economic hardships and violence, among other challenges. Most of the migrant workers that were exposed to various forms of social abuses were women who appeared to be domestic servants. These factors contributed to the general criticism that the Kuwaiti government was receiving.
In order to provide more rights for the migrant laborers working in the private sector, the Kuwaiti government passed the New Labor Law in the year 2009, which was set to prevent worker abuses. The law established tough punishments to the employees who were abusing their workers, consequently inflicting some regulation with respect to the international labor recruitment. Additionally, the government set out six labor cities, essentially for housing more than 60, 000 migrant workers. Specifically, the authorities gave the private sector the responsibility of building the laborers housing to international standards, which would be located in the northern side of Khairain city, North of Al Mutaleh, East of Ereifjan City, North of Sabiya and South Jahra. Even though the project aim was concerned with improving the living standards of the migrant workers, there is a requirement for a more significant effort that would integrate the millions of expatriates. This integration would be one way to preventing the emergence of the urban slums in the nation under consideration.
The elements completing labor equation in Kuwait take into account the residential units that contain living rooms, a kitchen, a bedroom and a storage room for the tenants. The construction of these units was to follow height and space requirements for the migrant workers. Despite the measurement and the number of rooms specified for the apartments, emphasis was put on the provision of security for the residents living in the city. Consequently, the government provide some of the services to workers living in the area. They include police stations, mosques, healthcare centers and fire fighting stations among others. The city would also contain some commercial centers that would serve the needs of the residents of the area. These commercial facilities were encompassed cafes, banks, gas stations, supermarkets, shops and bakeries among other commercial centers.
The government set out infrastructural projects for these cities including roads, drainage systems, water supply, a sewage system, bus stations, telephone network and maintenance services, among other infrastructural developments. The residential sectors were to be divided into four, with green spaces between them. This division was necessary for making it possible for the residents to access the gardens, parks and green spaces made available for people by the government. Generally, the development of the city was set out to meet the international housing standards, which would allow the residents to have access to adequate housing and live in good conditions.
With the large number of migrant workers getting to Kuwait, it is possible to predict that the labor city does not have the capacity to meet the growing number of migrant workers. It is possible to confirm this assumption by looking at the amount of workers sharing space in the houses available for them. One of the aims of constructing the labor city is to prevent slums from cropping up. However, achieving this aim can be challenging owing to the fact that the number of units in the initial construction process is not enough to fulfill the housing needs of the migrant workers. As depicted from some of the household projects around the world, it is possible to draw out a conclusion that by segregating the low-income groups to one place, there is a possibility that this might deepen the state of poverty experienced by these people. For this reason, one might argue that even though the construction of the labor city is meant to improve the living standards of the migrant workers in the country, there is a high probability that the construction will create an environment that is ripe for the development of an urban slum. Housing projects are avenues that can lead to disinvestment, since many people will prefer to live in the area.
While the course of the construction of these houses, what should be taken into account is number of people expected to live in the area. For this reason, there is a projected capacity of amenities that will be put in place to serve these individuals. With the large number of people expected to reside in the city, there is a high probability that they will put a lot of pressure on the available amenities in the labor city. This will mean that the maintenance of the houses will prove to be difficult since the number of people in the house will be above the expectation. On the other hand, the Kuwaiti master plan involves the construction of more than 55,000 units with the aim of taking care of the growing number of migrant workers expected to increase in the country in future. This capacity might not be enough to supplement the number of workers, which is a factor that will make it difficult for the Kuwaiti government to meet the set goals for housing the migrant workers. One way to ensure that the overcrowding does not persist is the passing of the law allowing migrant workers who have lived in the country for a minimum of ten years to buy an apartment. However, there are specifics to the size of the apartment that the migrant should buy, and he or she is required to sell the house when leaving the country.
Most of the workers were secondary tenants, who have no security of tenure. Even though the program is a government initiative, and the construction process is left to private developers, who are likely to use the lack of security tenure to arm-twist the tenants into some unacceptable treatment. The housing project is also likely to elevate the bachelor ghettos, which dominate in areas like Sulibya, Suelibeikhat, Gar, Jahra, Subhan, and Khaitan. Therefore, this project is likely to create an environment that will increase a deplorable state of living.
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