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Sat 18 Aug 2007 12:00 AM

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Capacity forces positive change

Strongest intrigue for journalists still stems from plight of Dubai's migrant workforce, Angela Giuffrida says.

There was an article in the New York Times recently that gave a mention to Construction Week.

The focus of the story was the working and living conditions experienced by labourers in Dubai, along with the changes being made to improve these.

And the reference to our publication was in relation to research carried out into the number of accidents that had occurred on the emirate's construction sites in 2004.

While we were pleased to see our name up in lights in such a high-profile newspaper, what was more interesting was the fact that the author chose to steer his story on Dubai towards the labour issue, particularly at a time when the emirate was making a name for itself as being host to the tallest tower in the world.

The three main ports of call for international journalists visiting the city tend to be the Palm Islands, the Burj Dubai and the labour camps.

Yet despite these remarkable projects, the strongest intrigue still seems to stem from the plight of the migrant workforce, and this is generally reflected in the stories they write.

While the information in the coverage may be somewhat repetitive, it goes to prove that the world's attention is still better captured by how buildings are being constructed, rather than what they will eventually look like.

The two instrumental players in getting a building finished are the contractors and their workforce.

And the good news for this region is that changes seem to be happening that will benefit both.

On the contractor's side, the balance of power is reaching a stage whereby they're better protected from the inherent risks associated with a project; contracts are becoming more refined, while relationships with the client are getting stronger and more focused towards the long term.

While on the labourers' side, more employers are building better accommodation, medical centres are being set up on site, training schools are being established and hopefully a compulsory health insurance law will soon be in place.

The unique capacity issues of this construction market may be the driving force behind these changes, and will hopefully lead to a win-win situation for clients, contractors and labourers.

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