Minimum wage for Bahrain expats ruled out
Manama, April 29, 2010
A senior official has ruled out the introduction of a minimum wage for foreign workers, saying it could undermine the country's economy.
Labour Ministry legal adviser Dr Abdelbast Abdelmohsen admitted Bahrain saw its cheap and manual labour as a major draw for foreign companies.
He said any move to improve the salaries of migrant labourers could directly impact foreign investment and affect Bahrain's competitiveness in the region.
'Citizens are the ones who will suffer in the end (with the introduction of a minimum wage) and businesses will be reluctant to invest in Bahrain because the advantage that we have, which is cheap labour, will not be an option anymore,' said Dr Abdelmohsen.
'This will also reduce the competition rate between Bahrain and the Gulf region because we will no longer have the aspect of cheap labour, which will affect the economy.
'This is why Bahrain doesn't have a minimum wage policy for migrant workers.'
He made the comment during a workshop highlighting the rights of migrant workers in Bahrain that was attended by a panel of labour ministry representatives from the Philippines, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Yemen and Lebanon.
'If we implement a minimum wage for migrant workers then we will directly harm the country's economy,' said Dr Abdelmohsen.
'If wages of these expats rise, the cost of production will increase - causing the cost of services and products to surge.'
The two-day workshop, organised by the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, will continue today at the Ramee International Hotel, Juffair.
During the event, Dr Abdelmohsen also said there was no plan to bring an estimated 27,000 domestic workers in Bahrain under the protection of the new Labour Law.
Housemaids and other domestic staff, mostly from India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, are currently not included in the draft bill, but Dr Abdelmohsen claimed their rights would be protected.
'Even though these domestic workers are excluded from the new law they will still be protected and subjected to several rules and provisions which would ensure their basic rights safeguarded,' he said.
'Such provisions would include having an official contract determining a fixed salary, stating a weekly day off, end-of-term bonus and exemption from legal fees.
'Under the new Labour Law, domestic workers will be taken into account indirectly.'
Meanwhile, Dr Abdelmohsen dismissed claims that the government should be responsible for monitoring violations against migrant workers, saying it would be impossible to keep track of them.
'It's impossible for the government to keep track of 186,000 employers, so we encourage workers to come forward if any violations are committed against them,' he said.
'They can file a complaint with the ministry and we will review and decide whether to take it to court.
'Under the judicial system, we propose that the Labour Court should complete cases within a month - from receiving the complaint to settling labour disputes.'-TradeArabia News Service