Daily Life of Nepali Migrant Workers in UAE

A typical day for Nepali migrant workers in the labor camps of Dubai and Abu Dhabi begins around 4 am. After waking up, they do their morning activities and get ready for work. The company bus arrives around 5 or 5:30 am. They cannot miss the bus because the workplace is usually an hour and a half away. A taxi ride would cost them more than their daily wage so, that is not an option.

In some labor camps in Musaffah industrial area of Abu Dhabi, up to 12 men live in a single room of around 100 sq. ft. (Photo by Puru Shah for The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University)

They arrive at their factory, construction site, or work place around 7 am. They work until the evening with a short break for lunch. The company bus picks them up in the evening and takes them back to the labor camp. Given the rush hour traffic in these rapidly growing cities, it takes them more than an hour and a half on average for the trip home. They usually return to the camp around 8 pm.

In the evening, they take a shower. If there are no proper places to dry their wet clothes, their bed serves as a drying rack.

A migrant worker in ICAD labor camp in Abu Dhabi, UAE uses his bed to dry wet clothes after an evening shower. (Photo by Puru Shah for The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University)

Then, they go out to a nearby inexpensive restaurant for dinner, usually run by migrant workers too. Most migrant workers eat all of their meals in restaurants for three main reasons. First, they work long hours which leaves very little time to cook meals. Second, many labor camps do not have kitchen with cooking facilities. Third, food is relatively inexpensive and several companies provide food allowance in addition to monthly wage.

Some migrant workers buy a packed dinner and eat in the park outside ICAD Labor Camp which houses hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Photo by Puru Shah for The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University)

At night, they make time to talk with family members back in Nepal. Due to the ubiquity of smartphones and internet connectivity, both in UAE and in rural areas of Nepal, they can talk directly using smartphone apps. Gone are the days migrant workers spent 10-25% of their monthly income on calling cards. Around 11 pm, they go to sleep and get ready for next day.

Author’s Note:

I traveled to United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December 2016 for documenting the stories of Nepali labor migrants. Photography and cinematography of migrant workers were strictly prohibited so, I had to carry these out carefully without jeopardizing jobs of migrant workers and my own safety.

This work is part of a student media grant by the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University.
To read more: see The Confict and Development Center at Texas A&M University.

See previous posts:

Migration in Nepal – Data and Trends

Role of Literacy Rate and HDI on Migration in Nepal



Puru Shah

Puru Shah is the founder of Madhesi Youth. For Madhesi Youth, he primarily writes about human rights issues and articles with an emphasis on data analysis & data visualization. His goal is to promote justice, equality, sustainable development, and youth empowerment in Nepal. Connect with Puru Shah on Twitter (@digitalsubway)