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Sunday, February 11, 2024

16 Asian countries discuss at Abu Dhabi Dialogue employing technology to implement innovative initiatives for regulating labour markets

Ministers of labour, human resources, and employment from 16 Asian countries of origin and destination for labour addressed ways to leverage advanced technology to launch innovative initiatives that allow for settling labour disputes and quickly issuing the required verdicts, while supporting wage protection systems and enhancing skill mobility across participating countries, among other areas related to labour market regulations.

The discussion formed part of the Seventh Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) Ministerial Consultation meeting, which was held in Dubai on Sunday, 11 February, as part of the World Government Summit 2024, bringing together representatives from international organisations, the private sector, and civil society, along with experts, specialists, and observers.

A total of 16 countries participated in the current edition of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, including nine labour-sending countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, in addition to seven labour-receiving countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.

Addressing the meeting, His Excellency Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar, UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said: “Abu Dhabi Dialogue is one of the most prominent forums and regional consultative mechanisms concerned with the movement of individuals for the purpose of work. The event offers a forward-thinking platform to monitor projected future challenges in labour markets across the Asia corridor.”

“Abu Dhabi Dialogue contributed significantly to the integration of procedures and decisions, as well as the adoption of sustainable solutions for key challenges, offering a platform to showcase innovative ideas, leading global trends, and successful regional initiatives,” he continued. “Every year, takeaways from the event’s sessions contribute to enhancing member states’ ability to be adaptable and agile in the face of major transformations in the labour market, empowering them to ensure governance in their decisions, particularly those related to protecting rights of workers migrating between member states, in line with international labour standards, which has led to enhanced benefits for both workers and employers.”

“Labour markets are undergoing major economic and social transformations, along with wide-ranging structural changes that impact the nature of work and the type of businesses, jobs, and skills required to keep pace with global transformations, especially the radical changes affecting the core aspects of economic development. This, in turn, has created a unique set of challenges, imposing new trends in labour market policies that align with the nature of these pivotal transformations,” Al Awar explained.

“The world has seen tremendous technological progress in recent years, where artificial intelligence has led to radical shifts in the way work is carried out,” he added.

“We have also seen increased demand for advanced technological skills, leading to challenges that call for closer collaboration to be addressed and transformed into new opportunities for growth. This would also allow production to keep up with transformations and contribute more effectively to the new economy – all within a clear framework with well-defined roles and active contributions from all segments of the community to ensure equality, justice, and rule of law.

“These and many other attributes must be ensured to establish an attractive environment for skilled labour, while maintaining a focus on innovation and the knowledge economy, and engaging various groups in the labour market, including women, people of determination, and others.”

Minister Al Awar asserted that the Seventh Abu Dhabi Dialogue Ministerial Consultation presents an ideal opportunity to strengthen partnerships and outline future trends and priorities for collaboration among member states to meet development requirements and make integrated, actionable decisions based on scientific research. “This, in turn, lays the groundwork for formulating common visions and policies on the issues being discussed at the event, enhancing member states’ collective ability to face and overcome challenges.”

Moreover, he stressed the UAE’s commitment, as host of the Permanent Secretariat of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue since 2008, to supporting the event. “The UAE believes in the importance of developing bilateral and multilateral partnerships under the umbrella of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, through cooperation with international bodies and organisations specialising in promoting protection and social justice,” Al Awar said.

“Accomplishing these objectives calls for adopting a sustainable and transparent consultative approach that supports new strategic directions and agreements between our countries, in a bid to improve governance of temporary labour migration, protect their rights, and ensure their wellbeing and stability.”

His Excellency’s speech also addressed the social protection system for workers in the UAE, which includes the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, the voluntary alternative end-of-service benefits scheme (the Savings Scheme), Wage Protection System, Workers Protection Programme, and other initiatives that serve to enhance and protect the contractual relationship between worker and employer. He noted that the Unemployment Insurance Scheme in the UAE covers 7 million workers, while the Workers Protection Programme covers 98.8% of the workforce in the UAE labour market.

“The UAE is also proud to be launching the Labour Market Observatory, which provides periodic information on various labour market indicators in the UAE, detailing results of the policies, programmes, and innovative initiatives launched to regulate the labour market,” Al Awar explained. “This serves to provide reliable statistics and data about the UAE labour market to media outlets, international organisations, research centres, academics, and all interested parties.”

For his part, His Excellency Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates, praised the UAE’s support for Pakistan’s Chairmanship of the Seventh Abu Dhabi Dialogue, applauding the UAE’s efforts to drive climate action, which facilitated the positive results achieved at COP28.

“Abu Dhabi Dialogue has succeeded in building trust and consensus among member states, providing a meaningful platform for dialogue in the region, enhancing member states’ efforts, and promoting them to international platforms such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development,” Tirmizi said in his speech during the meeting, underlining “the principle of shared responsibility between labour-sending and receiving countries in terms of ensuring governance and developing innovative solutions to address mobility issues within a safe and legal framework.”

Meanwhile, His Excellency Manusha Nanayakkara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka, and former Chair of Abu Dhabi Dialogue, underlined the importance of cooperation, exchanging best practices between member states, and the use of technology to support the governance of labour mobility. Nanayakkara presented the initiatives recently launched by Sri Lanka to support the governance of labour mobility and allow for accurate documentation and certification of skills, to create greater opportunities for workers and raise their efficiency.

Innovative government initiatives

During the meeting, five countries presented innovative government initiatives. The UAE showcased its social protection system for workers, including the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, which has around 7 million subscribers, as well as the voluntary alternative end-of-service benefits scheme, known as the Savings Scheme. The UAE also presented the Labour Market Observatory platform, which provides periodic data in Arabic and English on various labour market indicators, as well as the results of regulatory policies, programmes, and initiatives. Moreover, the UAE shed light on the process for submitting and resolving individual labour complaints, along with the Emirates Labour Market Award and its role in enhancing labour market competitiveness and motivating stakeholders to adhere to the highest professional quality and work environment standards.

Sri Lanka presented an initiative for a national policy and action plan regarding migration, leveraging the workforce as an economic driver in the country, and supporting development through a comprehensive vision to ensure professionalism in recruitment. The initiative also includes launching a mandatory capacity-building and training programme, listing expatriate workers on insurance and pension lists, along with other incentives, such as housing loan facilities, education support for their children, and an integrated financial system to encourage them to transfer money in foreign currency to their home country.

For its part, the Sultanate of Oman presented its Savings Programme, which aims to enable workers to plan for additional retirement benefits. The Programme serves as the basis for end-of-service benefits coverage, offering a supplementary programme for retirement plans with additional amounts to be collected upon retirement or termination of service, either in a lump sum or through scheduled monthly instalments for several years. The Savings Programme enhances the value of workers’ retirement pensions, allowing them to opt for early retirement as well; it is a key component of the Omani social protection system and allows for diversifying sources of retirement benefits.

The Philippines presented its integrated system to ensure governance for labour mobility and overseas employment, which includes, most notably, creating government partnerships with labour-receiving countries to combat illegal recruitment, in addition to recognising and documenting skills. The presentation also highlighted the country’s efforts to combat human trafficking, establish an aid fund for overseas Filipino workers, and reintegrate returning Filipinos into society.

On the same note, Saudi Arabia showcased an innovative system for recognising and accrediting professional certificates, along with another programme for assessing workers’ skills. The objective is to enhance the efficiency of the Kingdom’s labour market, promote access to global skills, and create opportunities for professional development.


Electronic dispute settlement

The meeting included four working sessions. The first session focused on how technology can improve employers’ access to dispute settlement and banking services, highlighting the benefits from employing advanced technology to launch initiatives that help regulate the labour market, reduce the occurrence of labour disputes, and allow for easier and quicker dispute resolution, by introducing electronic reporting systems, following up on the transfer of wages and labour benefits through wage protection systems, and enabling workers to freely send transfers using secure, legal, and affordable means.


Wage protection systems

The second session discussed ways to employ technology to strengthen capabilities of member states in the areas of wage protection systems and health information. The session stressed the importance of the importance of expanding the scope of wage protection systems in labour-receiving countries to include domestic workers. This falls under the role that technology plays in enhancing workers’ wellbeing, empowering countries to manage labour markets, and implementing the best available means to monitor key indicators regarding workers’ rights. The session also underlined the need to build on the benefits technology offers to enhance workers’ knowledge about health, educate them about their rights and the health standards adopted in the work environment, and inform them of all the options they can use to seek help and health support, which enhances their wellbeing.


Skills mobility

The third session on the agenda discussed methods to improve skills mobility between countries of origin and destination for labour. It included an overview of key guidelines for building successful partnerships between labour-sending and receiving countries, and developing skills based on the evolving labour-market needs, by leveraging technology, developing protection and monitoring systems, and implementing policies that help ensure a safe work environment, enhance workers’ wellbeing, and boost their productivity.


Gender equality

The fourth and final session discussed ways to ensure gender equality in member states’ employment policies, examining current and potential demand for employing female workers in the field of technology, as well as ways to facilitate access to tech and tech-related sectors in an effort to enhance women’s participation in labour markets. The session also explored plans to enhance women’s participation and integration in light of major technological developments across various business sectors, outlining the best ways to evaluate women’s employment, and analyse the level of justice and equality in the work environment in terms of wages, vacations, and others.

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