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Gulf states among the worst countries for workers

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Global rights index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess workers’ rights,

The Gulf States are among the world’s worst countries for workers’ rights according to the 2015 Global Rights Index of the ITUC. “Workers in the Gulf States where the ‘kafala’ system is widespread endure many of the violations. This makes the Middle East and North Africa the world’s worst region for fundamental rights at work,” says ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Every year the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice. 

The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for more than 30 years. Since 2014 the findings are presented through the Global Rights Index. It offers a snapshot for government and business to see how their laws and supply chains have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.

The ten worst countries for working people are:

  • Belarus, 
  • China, 
  • Colombia, 
  • Egypt, 
  • Guatemala, 
  • Pakistan, 
  • Qatar, 
  • Saudi Arabia, 
  • Swaziland and 
  • United Arab Emirates.

“Workers in Colombia and Guatemala have been murdered for trying to negotiate better working conditions. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labour and labour law exclusions which amount to modern slavery.

In 73 of 141 countries, workers faced dismissals, suspensions, pay cuts and demotions for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, while in 84 countries employers adopted illegal strategies to deny or delay bargaining with representative trade unions.

The reports key findings

  • Out of a total of 141 countries, the number where workers faced arbitrary arrest and detention increased from 35 to 44, and included countries such as Spain and Brazil.
  • In almost 60 per cent of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their fundamental labour rights.
  • Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, one up from last year, including 22 deaths in Colombia alone.
  • Seventy per cent of countries have workers with no right to strike.
  • Two thirds of countries deny workers collective bargaining rights.
  • More than half of countries in the survey deny workers access to the rule of law.

In the past year, unions have reported violent crackdowns on peaceful protests in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ukrain. In Qatar around 100 migrant workers striking against poverty wages were arrested last November.

Read the report – ITUC Global Rights Index: The worst places in the world for workers.Download the ITUC Global Rights Index mapDownload the ITUC Global Rights Index infographics.

Publication date 15 06 2015