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Workers take a break at a construction site in Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Indian blue-collar workers in the UAE can now expect greater protection and better wages with their host and home countries all set to roll out two key bilateral projects, Gulf News has learnt.

While the first pertains to the integration of the online recruitment systems of both the countries for the workers, the second will pave the way for the UAE to recognise the certification of Indian skilled workers which is expected to fetch them higher wages.

Senior officials from both the countries made joint presentations about the progress in the integration of the two countries’ recruitment portals for streamlining the issuance of work permits at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue held in Dubai recently.

e-Migrate portal

This will link India’s e-Migrate portal for recruitment of blue-collar workers requiring emigration clearance (ECR category) with the online portal of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoOHRE) for the processing of labour contract applications by UAE employers.

137,000

Indian workers’ recruitment to the UAE was done through the e-Migrate portal last year

“With innovative intervention of technology, we are at an advanced stage of linking these two systems,” said Sanjiv Arora, secretary, Consular, Passport and Visa and Overseas Indian Affairs at India’s Ministry of External Affairs, after attending the ADD.

The linkage is in the process of being tested and validated and is expected to be deployed within a few weeks.

- Dr Omar Al Nuaimi, MoHRE’s Assistant undersecretary for Communication and International Relations

In the latest update, Dr Omar Al Nuaimi, MoHRE’s Assistant undersecretary for Communication and International Relations, told Gulf News: “The linkage is in the process of being tested and validated and is expected to be deployed within a few weeks.

Gateway for processing applications

“The ministry’s system will henceforth serve as the sole gateway for the processing of all applications by UAE employers and share relevant information about the terms of employment with India’s e-Migrate system, which addresses the need of both countries to maintain reliable records and furthers their mutual commitment to protecting workers and preventing the practice of contract substitution.”

With innovative intervention of technology, we are at an advanced stage of linking these two systems.

- Sanjiv Arora, secretary, Consular, Passport and Visa and Overseas Indian Affairs at India’s Ministry of External Affairs..

Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri said the project is a measure to protect the interest of workers and for the authorities to know who is where when they get into trouble.

“It will make sure the [labour] contracts are genuine, and not substituted and they [workers] are not abused.”

He said 137,000 Indian workers’ recruitment to the UAE was done through the e-Migrate portal last year.

In the system, recruitment agencies have to be registered and empanelled. The employers’ details and the contracts also have to be registered. In the case of malpractices, the recruitment agency’s deposit could be revoked to aid the workers.

Indian workers at IWRC centre in Sharja
Indian workers at IWRC centre in Sharjah. With the UAE and India aligning their qualification standards, a certified candidate would mean he is better equipped for an employment opportunity here and hence has improved earnings potential and career prospects. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

“However, the system was not fully effective in protecting worker rights because our contracts were not accepted in the UAE courts. Now, we have agreed on mutually agreed contracts.

“The confirmation that this is a valid contract with a valid employer will enhance worker protection. This will eliminate instances of bogus employers and contract substitutions,” said Suri.

First set of certified workers before October

At the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, the UAE and India jointly presented key steps in the roll-out of a programme that was announced last year which aims at harmonising and aligning their respective skilling ecosystems.

Al Nuaimi said, “This strategic partnership between the UAE and India will begin by aligning their respective qualification standards for an expanding set of occupations, training Indian workers in accordance with these standards and recognition by the UAE of training outcomes through certification.

“This allows better matching of candidate and an employment opportunity, contributes to more stable and productive employment relations and affords certified Indian workers the opportunity to enhance their earning potential and prospects of upward mobility.”

Arora said 15 occupations with different types of skills have been identified for the initial phase of the project.

Indian construction workers at a site in Dubai Marina
Indian construction workers at a site in Dubai Marina. The UAE-India bilateral projects will make sure the labour contracts are genuine, and workers are not abused. Image Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News Archives

According to Manish Kumar, MD and CEO of India’s National Skill Development Corporation, skills have been mapped for 15 occupations in the automotive and construction sectors.

These include construction electrician, electrical supervisor, auto body repair painter, maintenance technician, mason, welding technician and auto body repair technician.

“We hope to have the first set of certified workers coming to the UAE under this new mechanism before October,” said Kumar.

Suri said the workers trained and certified in the skill sets required by the UAE stand to get better wages.

“They (UAE employers) have grades when they recruit workers. Rather than coming at the bottom level of grades, people will come with higher grades and better wages.”

Indian blue-collar workers’ recruitment to the UAE was moved to the e-Migrate portal in 2015.