Other Middle East States
These states are all located on the Arabian Peninsula, Anatolia or adjacent areas. Cyprus is the only middle eastern state to be a member of the European Union, although Thrace and Istanbul – both parts of Turkey – are on the western side of the Bosphorus (and therefore in Europe).
This remains a highly volatile and troubled region with vast oil resources. Many of the problems relate to rivalry between two Islamic sects and historical resentments over formation of the state of Israel. The most economically advanced states are those in the Persian Gulf and UAE remains one of the most affluent and economically advanced countries in the world.
Bahrain: No law exists giving a right to collective bargaining and there is no private sector minimum wage. Several sectors exist where strikes are banned. Strikes require a simple majority vote of union members and 15 days notice. However, there is no legal restriction on anti-union measures.
Around a fifth of foreign workers are held in post by debt bondage. There is no restriction on employers advertising jobs for articular country nationals or linguistic groups. There are some reports that Shia applicants received less work offers than those practicing Sunni. Labour laws are comprehensive and reasonably enforced amongst the local workforce – although not amongst the 60% or so of the workforce who are low-skilled foreign workers. The ban on outdoor work between noon and 4 p.m. during July and August is only effectively enforced in large companies.
Cyprus: There is an open labour market for EU citizens and a significant minority population of ethnic Russian businesses operate a distinct linguistic market in the Limassol area. A significant proportion of the population employ residential domestic workers who primarily come from the Philippines. A minimum wage only applies to a few “vulnerable” occupations and a lower one for “live in” domestic workers. Collective bargaining is fairly widespread and penalties for violating health and safety, working time and remuneration requirements include possible imprisonment.
Iran: This is a country recognised by the United Nations as having very little respect for civil or human rights. A minimum wage exists, but has not kept pace with inflation in recent years. Although labour laws exist they do not generally apply to foreign workers. Casual labour contracts are common and there is a low level of labour inspection.
Jordan: A minimum wage exists, but a third of the population live in poverty. The minimum wage does not apply to foreign workers and those in the garment sector have a lower rate. The standard working week is 48 hours. The enforcement of labour standards is higher in Qualifying Industrial Zones and many larger employers belong to an initiative “better work Jordan”. The country employs a high level of foreign domestic workers – although Indonesia has banned its citizens from taking up such jobs in Jordan.
Israel: Although an adequate minimum wage exists it is not strictly applied to foreign or minority group workers. Bilateral agreements exist with several countries to regulate the flow of migrant workers. However, several special fees apply to foreign lower skilled employees entering the country. A hotline has been established for migrant workers to report legal infractions and these complaints are generally followed up. Trade unions operate independent of the government and it is an offence to discriminate against someone for being a union member.
Kuwait: This small Emirate has the highest per capita income in the world and places a high emphasis on financial services. Law is of the French civil type and sharia law is largely confined to family matters. There are no “sharia courts” and half the country’s judges are Egyptian.
There is tough control on freedom of speech and no toleration for any intimate relationship that is not based on marriage between a man and woman. Separate labour laws govern those in the oil sector and other private sector activities. Immigrants working for companies with no registered establishment in Kuwait remain covered by the laws of their home state. All contracts written under Kuwaiti law must be written in Arabic.
Oman: A minimum wage exists, but does not apply to foreign workers. The standard working week is 45 hours but there is poor enforcement of this in respect to foreign workers.
The courts are little used for labour law infringements, although the Ministry of Manpower does offer mediation in some cases. The focus of labour inspections is for visa validity and little attention is given to other legal violations.
Qatar: This country is ranked 6th in the world for GDP per capita (excluding guest workers). It is also the world’s second largest exporter of natural gas. Sharia law is the main source of legislation. Thus flogging, stoning and removal of body parts are considered legitimate punishments and female testimony is little respected in the courts. There is currently a partial boycott of Qatar in the Arab world over a dispute concerning the funding of terrorism.
Saudi Arabia: Much emphasis has been placed in recent years on diversification in the economy and opening up expatriate held jobs to Saudi nationals.
The minimum wage does not apply to foreign nationals and the Commission for the Settlement of Labour Disputes operates a system heavily biased towards Saudi nationals. The standard workweek is 48 hours and 24-hour work breaks are generally on Fridays.
Around 55% of workers are foreign citizens and labour inspectors largely focus on checking that foreign workers possess the correct papers. There is a facility for employees to switch their employee (sponsor) provided that the new employee has met their quota for hiring Saudi nationals. Women’s rights are gradually improving, although many still work in segregated offices.
Turkey: Regular working time is amongst the highest in the world and the standard workweek is 45 hours. Overtime pay is generally only honoured in unionized workplaces.
Although illegal, the employment of children is commonplace. The informal sector accounts for around a quarter of the national workforce and health and safety regulations are generally badly enforced.
United Arab Emirates (UAE): Employment laws, particularly relating to discrimination, are only effectively enforced in the free zones. In fact, the country as whole does not operate anti-discrimination laws covering criteria other than race, ethnicity or religion.
There is a normal 48-hour week and no statutory minimum wage. A 2.5 hour workbreak at lunch time is applied in Summer months, but this can be officially exempted in case of urgent projects. Payment of wages has been problematic in the past, but now the government requires payment through bank transfer.
A hotline exists for foreign workers to report labour infractions and this is frequently used. Employers commonly provide accommodation for immigrant workers – but this s often in overcrowded apartments or labour camps where living standards can be very poor.
Greatest advantages: Oil reserves, huge capital reserves in Saudi Arabia and the gulf states, diversification strategies of some states to make economies more broadly based.
Greatest disadvantages: The world’s leading source of terrorists, particular threat to western foreigners in the region, tax breaks in countries like Cyprus and UAE. Trend towards reserving certain jobs for local nationals.
Proportion of global land area: 6% (17 countries)
Proportion of global population: 3.9%
Annual rate of population increase: -1.6% (Syria) to 5.2% (Oman.
Life expectancy: Men 67.5years to 80.1years Women: 71.9 years to 84.1 years
Working population in the informal economy: 47 % men, 35% Women
GSI Modern slavery (Forced Labour) 0.4% in UAE to 1.3% in Qatar
Unemployment rate: %
GDP/capita PPP (current) $
Female labour participation rate: %
Male labour participation rate: %
World Bank rating (doing business): / 190
FedEE overall employment potential rating: 5/10
FedEE regulatory rating: 4/10
Minimum wage rates (selected states)
– Iran: 930,000 Tomans a month (March 2017)
– Israel: NIS 5300 a month (December 2017)
– Turkey: 1600 Turkish Liras a month (1.1.2018)