Workers’ Misery & ILD [Archives:2001/18/Focus]

April 30 2001

Tawfeek al-Sharaabi
Yemen Times
There is no doubt that workers are an important pillar of any society. They play an essential role in the development process. However, their conditions are not as good as the work they do. In our country, workers’ conditions have deteriorated remarkably in the past ten years. Due to many external and internal reasons, they have reached terrible condition. External reasons including the returning of 1 million Yemenis from the Gulf countries and ceasing support from many Arab and foreign countries. Internal reasons include the civil war of 1994, a deplorable economy, laying off workers due to privatizing many public establishments, high unemployment rate, corruption, etc.
The 1st of May is well-recognized as International Labor Day. All countries are celebrating the day viewing achievements they have accomplished to improve workers’ conditions. Moreover, they devise plans and set goals to be achieved in the future. Yemen, too, is going to celebrate as we celebrate other international days. The the only difference is that we celebrate for the sake of celebrating, nothing more, nothing less.
Workers’ from Pillar to Post:
Workers’ conditions have been deteriorating considerably to the extent that most of them can hardly make both ends meet. The deplorable economy and economic reforms, embarked upon by the Yemeni government in collaboration with the IMF and WB since 1995, have increased the number of people below the poverty line. According to official statistics a survey showed the number of people below the poverty line was 30% in 1999, though other sources indicate that it is far more. Citizens annual income per capita has also decreased to $342, meaning less than one dollar a day. Job opportunities are limited. Employers, on the other hand, has exploited this situation by offering small wages to their employees. They, furthermore, oppress them and put more restrictions on them.
In fact, workers have been going from pillar to post. They are ignored and shrugged off as they are the weak section of the society. Who will claim their rights? It is true that Yemen is a signatory of many international treaties and conventions that proclaim and emphasize their rights. However, these remains nothing but rhetoric far from reality.
Conditions of these illiterate who take to manual handicrafts or labor are the most heartbreaking. They, from early hours in the morning, gather in common markets and streets looking for anything to do to obtain living. Marks of weakness, humiliation and indignity are clearly seen on their faces. They may find work for one day and remain unemployed the rest of the week.
This happens at a lamentable absence of syndicates that claim their rights, nor can they themselves be able to form any groups to ask for them. Should we celebrate that they have no rights to call for, no hopes to cherish and no dreams to realize.
As things stand now, it seems that their suffering will be intensified, especially as the government is determined to go on with the economic reforms that have their greatest impact on them. Moreover, policies and strategies adopted to help relieve side effects of these reforms have come out as utter failures Mainly because they were not sincere and did not directly target them. The new government has to take this issue seriously and leash tangible efforts and policies to relieve them of their misery. They have a responsibility to do that. It is not just what they want or need. It is their responsibility.