Worker suicides on rise for fourth year

Sixty-nine Indian labourers taken own lives so far this year, India's Consulate General says.

The number of Indian migrant workers who have committed suicide in the UAE has risen for four consecutive years, according to India's Consulate General.

Construction workers account for the majority of the Indian migrant workforce, which constitutes 42.5% of the UAE labour force.

Sixty-nine workers have taken their own lives so far this year, putting 2008 on course to be the worst for such deaths since the consulate began keeping records in 2005.

The figures were released by Venu Rajamony, India's consul general. They have helped spark a wholesale review of emigration law across India, in the wake of concern over exploitation of workers in the GCC.

Rajamony said a number of factors caused the deaths. "It's the whole gamut of issues. Poor wages, harsh working conditions and workers finding that their expectations upon moving to Dubai have not been met. Alcohol can also be a contributory factor. It's very sad," he said.

The total number of suicides for the whole of 2005 was 84, a figure that has steadily increased each year. Last year, the number of Indian migrant workers who took their own lives in the UAE was 118. If the current trend continues, the figure for Indian migrant worker suicides in 2008 will top 140.

Rajamony said that the Indian Consulate is offering counselling services and a hotline for people in distress.

The emigration review follows calls for the government to stamp out recruitment agencies in India, which charge exhorbitant fees for their services. A recent rise in the value of the Indian rupee has also watered down GCC wages.

Rajamony said: "We have introduced a minimum wage for our female domestic workers, and have looked at doing the same [for construction workers].

"We have not taken any decisions yet. Any such move would have serious repercussions in commerce and industry."

"It's a step that we would like to take, and we will take every opportunity we have to engage towards it. We look forward to our next chance."

The Indian rupee has been strengthening against the dirham, and in many cases, wages that migrant workers send home from the UAE are no longer enough to cover the needs of the workers' families.

Rajamony also added that "the Indian Government has started cracking down on recruiting agencies in India that indulge in unfair or illegal practices."

According to the National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority, Indian migrants constitute 42.5% of the labour force in the UAE.

For immigration to work in the future it must be an "orderly and beneficial economic process," Rajamony said.

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