A poor legal and regulatory framework for the protection of labour rights has resulted in a high prevalence of labour rights violations in the UAE, as illustrated by Maplecroft’s Labour Rights and Protection Map. Violations are typically a result of weak legal enforcement and the fact that the labour laws fall short of international standards in several respects. This is especially the case regarding the right of workers to organise in trade unions. Migrant workers, accounting for approximately 90% of the workforce, are especially at risk. Reports suggest that they often experience unsafe working conditions and the illegal withholding of passports. Workers protesting against their working conditions are frequently dismissed and deported, such as the case of 25 migrant construction workers in March 2012.
The map shows that labour rights violations are more prevalent around the more densely populated areas – Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. This is mostly a result of the fact that most economic activities are concentrated in these areas. Due to the prevalence of reported violations, foreign companies with commercial activities in these areas face a heightened risk of being perceived as complicit in violations of international labour standards and alleged workplace exploitation.