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Workers getting their blood glucose and blood pressure checked at a health awareness camp by medical wing of Pakistan Association of Dubai. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News/achive

Abu Dhabi: An Abu Dhabi-based Pakistani expat’s welfare project to help victims of visa and recruitment fraud seek help from UAE and Pakistani authorities has developed into a major plan for migrant workers.

The Pakistani government is currently reviewing ‘Naya Mazdoor’ (meaning New Labour in Urdu), a project launched in 2019 by Mariam Malik, a Pakistani expat in the UAE who is a professional in mass skilled workforce recruitment and business development since 2006. The project took over 15 months to design and develop by Malik, who is currently in talks with donors. She travelled to Pakistan in March 2020 to pursue and propose the solution to the government there. She went there because she believes that ‘Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is now leading the government, is the only politician who has voiced his concern for overseas workers and had ‘transparency and change’ on his political agenda.

Plans under review

"Along with Naya Mazdoor, the Pakistani government is also reviewing an ‘Employment Generation and Empowerment’ plan for its working class," said Malik who is founder of 'Naya Mazdoor' project. Naya Mazdoor registered around 8,000 workers in the Gulf countries, helping victims of visa, recruitment and immigration fraud and connect them to UAE authorities and Pakistani government for repatriation.

Along with Naya Mazdoor, the Pakistani government is also reviewing an ‘Employment Generation and Empowerment’ plan for its working class

- Mariam Malik

The inspiration to design and develop the solution for Pakistan came from “the lack of concrete steps by its government to protect its migrant workers since 1970s and the need to plug the system and procedural gaps that lead to exploitation”, said Malik. Migrant workers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia account for 40 per cent of workers’ remittances flow into Pakistan from overseas, she added. “Even though Gulf countries have laws in place to protect migrant workers, they face difficulties and exploitation due to the lack of action and reforms locally in Pakistan by the government,” Malik said.

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Strategic focus

Her plan calls for “a sustainable 360-degree solution” to take both overseas and local workers into its fold. The strategic focus is on six main areas for workforce development: business development, employment, empowerment, welfare, reforms and labour laws implementation.

For Pakistani workers in the UAE and GCC, the plan includes “unprecedented levels” of protection, facilitation, and service by the Pakistani government to its migrant workers from pre-departure, up to post deployment. Extensive data collection of its workforce, helplines, employment opportunities, protection from jobseekers’ exploitation, fraud, and unscrupulous recruiting agents are some of the features. Assurance and checks of minimum wages set by the Pakistani government, system integrations with governments of Gulf countries working in collaboration to swiftly address issues for repatriation and rescue are among the proposals.

Tackling ‘corruption and neglect’

Malik said: "The implementation of the plan will also help curb corruptionin Pakistan’s various government institutions and departments related to labour and reveal the loss of billions of dollars caused to Pakistan’s economy, including money leaving the country through illegal channels due to migrant jobseeker exploitation, neglect by the Pakistani authorities, and unethical and illegal recruitment practices that violate international labour Laws."

The Naya Mazdoor initiative has also attracted the interest of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for future collaborations.

Need for coordination

The Employment Generation and Empowerment Plan along with the Naya Mazdoor Initiative Proposal has been in motion for review and approval by the government since April this year. It has also been shared with the Ministry of Overseas, Youth Affairs, NAVTTC and CPEC for the need of a collaborated effort to address issues such as labour exploitation and demand for manpower overseas and locally in industries such as textiles, construction including CPEC, Naya Pakistan Housing and other nationwide mega projects.

What Naya Mazdoor envisions

  • Skill mapping, geo-mapping, upskilling, re-skilling and extensive certified skill categorisation for local and international employment.
  • Data mining, analytics, and business development to boost employment generation
  • Tax visibility and avoidance of tax evasion to boost revenue, tax collection, exports, and incentives for industries
  • Work plan, collaboration and facilitation to over 15 federal and provincial ministries and departments, in addition to technical skills, training and labour related institutions and departments across Pakistan.
  • Development of a nationwide and overseas workforce digital database via registrations, direct, through call centres and volunteers.
  • Feedback, reporting and labour helpline for both local and overseas workers.
  • Wage protection systems
  • Inclusion of missing registrations nationwide into social security net e.g., EOBI, social security and worker welfare funds.
  • Special focus on jobseeker exploitation for local and migrant workers, and workplace exploitation including child and bonded labour
  • Swift resolution of overseas workers’ immigration issues and rescue/repatriation directly via government-to-government liaison