More than seven million Indians currently live and work in the oil-rich Gulf nations. The vast majority of them are in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait while the others are spread across Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. Unfortunately for them (and their families), foreign lands have not ensured a brighter future. A recent IndiaSpend analysis has highlighted some rather dark and gloomy drawbacks associated with working in the Gulf region.
According to the report, Indians living and working in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait are 10 times more likely to die compared to their counterparts in the United States.
While the report is indeed shocking, the abysmal workplace conditions in some of these countries (especially for low-wage workers) have made it to the headlines time and again.
For example, Qatar recently came under severe criticism for poor conditions for most of the one-million people working at constructions sites for the FIFA World Cup 2022. A large chunk of this one-million labour force consists of Indians.
Official reports suggest that around 1,387 Indian workers lost their lives in Qatar between 2010 and 2015. It's not just Indians though -- a large number of workers from other South Asian countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh also died in that period. These figures sparked controversies all over the world with many estimating that the death toll could rise further even before the FIFA event kicks-off.
Quite predictably, Qatar has time and again denied reports that highlighted the correlation between subpar working conditions in the construction fields and the rapidly rising death tolls. Surprisingly, the Indian government seems to have bought the explanation provided by Qatar.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs categorically mentioned in the Lok Sabha last month that the majority of deaths in the construction fields of Qatar were due to natural causes. Remember, there are about 600,000 Indians living in Qatar. Is the government's explanation of the issue acceptable? Should we consider the death toll of Indians in the country unnaturally high?
That's the fundamental question that the IndiaSpend study tried to address. To get to the bottom of the issue, they surveyed the total number of Indians living abroad by countries. Then they went on collecting the number of Indians who died in different countries across the world between 2010 and 2015.
Here's what the analysis revealed:
Some startling discoveries the study made:
- On average, approximately 54 per 100,000 NRIs worldwide die annually.
- The average NRI death toll in the six Gulf countries (69.2 per 100,000) is much higher than in the rest of the world (26.5 per 100,000).
- The highest number of NRI deaths occur in Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, and Kuwait (between 65 and 78 deaths per 100,000 Indians). Qatar's record, incidentally, is much better than these four countries.
- The death toll of Indian workers in the US and the UK is 80-90% lower when compared to the total death tolls in Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, and Kuwait.
The vast difference between the NRI death tolls in the Gulf nations and Western countries can be attributed to the fact that Indians living in the West generally work in the technology and financial sectors (whereas most Indians go to the Gulf nations to work in high-risk jobs such as construction).
Also, Indians living in the West have better access to healthcare because of their relatively higher income as well as better healthcare infrastructure in these countries.