The work environment is one of the important factors that must be present in order to increase productivity and raise workers, but the reality in the Arab region is that we are facing a map with different terrain of work environments, as there are countries suffering from local armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been involved in a war in Yemen with the Hou this since March 2015, as well as deteriorating financial conditions due to the dual crisis of the Corona pandemic and the drop in oil prices, which affected the business environment in the Gulf countries. Read also Without work or shelter .. Thousands of homeless workers sleep on Dubai’s streets below the skyscrapers Struggling for a livelihood .. The agricultural labor in Egypt suffers from neglect Britain … a record number of foreign workers left in 2020Suffering due to Corona … Labor shortage is a crisis that haunts the productive sectors in Kuwait
Several other Arab countries live in a state of political and security instability, such as Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Algeria and Lebanon.
On the first of May every year, Labor Day is celebrated, and some countries consider it a paid vacation. It is noteworthy that, when reviewing the United Nations website, the first of May was not included in the list of international days approved by the organization, even if the occasion imposed itself on the international arena.
Perhaps it is important on the occasion of Labor Day to point out a set of issues that haunt Arab workers, especially with regard to the work environment and conditions, their condition with unemployment and poverty, as well as their positioning on the map of political action.
Privatization and workers’ rights
Workers, in the presence of governments and the public sector as employers, used to obtain many of the economic and social rights recognized in international covenants and covenants, and if there was a case of abuse of this right, whether by workers or by governments, by employing these rights in The domestication of labor movements, and the establishment of a social contract that regulates the relationship of workers with the state within the framework of what is known as “loyalty in exchange for giving.”
Since the nineties of the twentieth century, many Arab countries, if not most of them, have adopted privatization programs, including the government getting rid of public enterprises and institutions, laying off their workers, or reducing their number, and the majority of economic reform programs with international institutions provide for reducing the number of government and public sector workers.
Rarely did the management of the private sector preserve workers’ rights, or preserve a role for trade unions in the enterprises and projects that were privatized in the Arab region. Advertising
As for the private sector projects, which were established under it, they are far from considering workers’ rights, with the exception of relative improvement in wages, but in light of individual decisions from the management of these establishments and in light of the exclusion of any dialogue with labor movements and trade unions.
Unemployment of Arab workers
Unemployment in the Arab region, as diagnosed by the Unified Arab Economic Report for the year 2020, is one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, as it was at 15.9% of the labor force in 2019, while the global average of unemployment was 5.4%. The number of unemployed in the Arab world is 25.6 million. The Unified Arab Economic Report indicates that 75% of the Arab unemployed are concentrated in 5 Arab countries: Sudan, Syria, Egypt, Algeria and Iraq.
Undoubtedly, the Corona pandemic has increased unemployment in the Arab world, which was monitored by the International Labor Organization data, and touched through the total or partial prohibitions that the Arab countries were subjected to, which greatly affected the loss of existing job opportunities, and reduced the possibility of providing New job opportunities.
The economic and social challenges posed by the Corona pandemic were not limited to the increase in unemployment rates, but they formed many aspects, including a contraction in economic growth rates, a decline in both exports and imports, paralysis of air traffic, and paralysis of the tourism sector.
Regarding the impact of Corona on the work environment in the Arab world, it is noted that 5 million permanent jobs were lost during the year 2020, and working hours were reduced by 9% in the first half of 2020, and the reduction in working hours increased by 18.8%.
Corona revealed the dilemma of the Arab labor markets with regard to the problems of irregular employment, which constitute a large part of the Arab labor market, and the extent of the fragility of social protection for this category of workers, who do not have health or social insurance, and are not provided with unemployment benefits, and in the best case. Some of these workers received insignificant and irregular benefits during 2020.
Poverty accompanies Arab unemployment
In a recent ESCWA report, entitled Survey of Economic and Social Developments for the Arab Region for the year 2019-2020, it was found that the Corona crisis has clear implications for increasing poverty rates in the region. It increased from 29.2% of the population of these countries in 2019 to 32.4% in 2020, and the report predicts that poverty rates will witness some decline in 2021 to reach 32.1%.
However, in light of the new waves, and the desire of some Arab countries to partially or completely close, it is expected that the expectations of the report regarding the decline in poverty rates in 2021 will not be fulfilled. The report also mentioned that the main mass of the poor in the countries covered by the report is concentrated by 80% in four countries , Namely, Syria, Sudan, Egypt and Yemen.
New work environment challenges
There are two important things that should be pointed out in light of the work environment, which concerns workers in the Arab region, and the opportunities and challenges imposed by Corona related to changing the nature and form of the traditional work relationship, as everyone now tends to non-binding work relations in terms of working hours, or the nature of regular wages. Or, it provides the rest of the other advantages granted to workers in natural conditions.
The second thing is the rapid development of virtual work, which has become one of the features of globalization in light of the manifestations of the information and communication revolution, and the work relationship is usually limited to an individual relationship, and it requires high technological skills, and is largely based on development and innovation.
Hence, we find that a new challenge casts its shadow over the Arab workers, a large part of whom lack adequate education and qualification to join the new work environment.
The absence of the political workers’ role
Economy and politics are two sides of the same coin, and over the past decades workers have played major political roles, but it is noted that the Arab region was less fortunate in the spread of institutionalization among the labor movements, so Arab governments were keen to domesticate the labor movement and consider it part of government performance.
It is noticeable that the labor movements in the Arab region did not go out of the way to have a political party that protects their interests and seeks to assume power, but at best they were content with demanding some advantages or economic and social rights, such as improving wages, benefiting from housing programs, or employing children.
Perhaps it is important and necessary on the occasion of Labor Day to single out this group of Arab workers who, under the abnormal conditions of their countries, were subjected to displacement or emigration, and some of them were even killed and permanently disabled, which prevented them from moving. These workers do not find anyone seeking to protect their interests or obtain their rights, especially in light of the weakness of the joint Arab work institutions concerned with these purely humanitarian matters.