Study finds rising cases of ‘wage theft’ among Keralites in GCC countries

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on August 02, 2021

On an average, each worker has been denied the salary of around ₹15 lakh

A survey among Kerala migrant workers in (Gulf Cooperation Council) GCC countries has revealed that an amount of ₹62 crore has been denied to 397 returnees as the Covid-19 pandemic hit businesses hard.

On an average, each worker has been denied the salary of around ₹15 lakh, said the Kerala Wage Theft report prepared by Centre for Indian Migrant Studies (CIMS).

The survey was conducted among 3,345 migrant workers, in which 397 individuals (12 per cent) reported wage theft (denial of salary). Of this, the majority of the workers belong to construction sector, followed by manufacturing, transportation and other sector such as domestic work, retail, medical.

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Covid impact

The incidents of wage theft increased when the governments in the Gulf countries allowed businesses who were economically suffering to terminate or reduce the salaries of workers. But this was taken as an opportunity by employers for their benefit. Though the practice of withholding salary and service benefits existed before, the number of reported cases during the pandemic period was multi-fold.

The remittance loss to Kerala on account of this is a cause of worry, as remittances make up more than a quarter of the State’s GDP. Quoting Kerala State Planning Board, the report said currently 2.4 million non-resident Keralites send as much as $15 billion annually to their homes.

The household consumption of remittance is a major foundation pillar of Kerala economy, which is why large numbers of migrant workers returning empty handed causes is an alarming situation.

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Legal matters

It was revealed in the survey that only 9 respondents among 397 were aware of the legal measures they could avail to claim unpaid dues and wages. Many migrant workers were afraid to report and go forward with legal action as they feared it might affect their chances for getting a job abroad in future.

The report also recommended that the India should ratify international conventions on labour standards and protection of migrant workers to ensure the welfare of all migrants. The country should sign bilateral agreements with destination countries to address the issues of unpaid wages and other benefits, it said.

This should include negotiations on labour laws existing in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which denies opportunity for legal options for a period of one year.

Published on August 02, 2021

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