16 Asian countries discuss employing technology to implement innovative initiatives for regulating labour markets

DUBAI: Ministers of labour and human resources from 16 Asian countries sending and receiving workers discussed leveraging advanced technology for innovative initiatives aimed at resolving labor disputes and expediting verdicts. They also aimed to strengthen wage protection systems and facilitate skill mobility among participating countries. The focus was on improving labor market regulations and initiatives. This came during the Seventh Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) Ministerial Consultation meeting, held in Dubai on Sunday, 11st February, as part of the World Governments Summit 2024, bringing together representatives from international organisations, the private sector, along with experts, thought leaders and decision-makers. A total of 16 countries participated in the current edition of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, including nine workers-sending countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, in addition to seven Workers-receiving countries: the UAE, Bahra in, Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, affirmed the significance of the "Abu Dhabi Dialogue', highlighting its role as a pivotal forum and consultative platform focusing on labor mobility in the region. He emphasised its importance as a crucial foresight platform throughout its successive sessions, aimed at monitoring anticipated future challenges in the labor markets across the Asia-Pacific region. '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. '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 has created a unique set of challenges, imposing new trends in labor market policies that align with the nature of these pivotal transformations," he further said. 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. He added, 'The UAE believes in the importance of developing 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'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 S avings 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, as well as the outcomes of the policies, programmes, and innovative initiatives launched to regulate the labour market,' Al Awar explained. 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, p roviding 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.' 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. 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 outcomes of regulatory policies, programmes, and initiatives. The UAE also 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 th rough 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. 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 installments 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 socia l 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. 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. The meeting included four working sessions. The first session focused on how technology can improve employers' access to dispute settlem ent 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. 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 expanding the scope of wage protection systems in workers-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 underli ned 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. 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. 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 tec hnology, 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. Source: Emirates News Agency