Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Food for thought

A couple of conversations recently.

One was with my Filipino barber - or 'hairdresser' as they prefer to be called these days. It was the end of the year and I asked whether his family was here and what he would be doing to celebrate.

He told me his family was back in the Philippines and he sees them once every two years. There would be parties with friends in the accommodation. Three hundred people live in the villa he said. When I looked surprised he said it was "a very big villa, we're only eight or ten in each room. Each room will do a party & we'll visit each other."

Sees his family once every two years, shares a room with nine others.

"Why don't you go back to the Philippines?" I asked.

"Here is better." he said.

The other conversation was with one of the full-time cleaners in our apartment block. He told me he was going to see his family in India, the first time in three years.

He lives in a cuboard.

It's actually called the 'Utility Room', where they keep the brooms and other cleaning materials. He has a thin mattress on the tile floor in there.

Same question from me: "Why don't you go back to India?

Same answer: "Dubai is better.

Neither earns what I consider acceptable money, neither see their family as often as I think is acceptable, neither has what I consider acceptable accommodation.

What do I know.

12 comments:

LDU said...

Craps, that is horrible.

A mate of mine has just returned from Dubai and has shown me some photos he took. Dubai looks filthy rich with all its high end stores, buildings, hotels, parks, residential developments, cars etc... Surely the government could introduce higher tax brackets and divert the money to help these fellas out too?

Seabee said...

The opulence is the part of Dubai the world sees but that's only one level, there's a whole other side too of very different levels.

This is private enterprise working in a market economy, the government isn't going to set up welfare for guest workers - and the guys I'm talking about are happier here than back home so just imagine what they're getting away from!

i*maginate said...

That's just simply terrible...I think ppl from all walks of life should be made to feel comfortable and happy for the long-term success of Dubai/UAE. It's so sad many married men in Dubai are not allowed to bring their families here unless they earn a certain amount.

Seabee said...

It's actually a sensible rule i*maginate, they simply can't afford to bring their families. How could they bring them to live in a cupboard, or sharing a room with ten people?

What my little story demonstrates is what very different standards and needs we have, depending on the culture and lifestyle we come from. Another example, my neighbours are in an arranged marriage. I wouldn't accept such a thing.

Duffy said...

One man's ceiling is another man's floor.

samuraisam said...

I know of a person who works in Dubai and makes pitiful pay (despite quite literally working feet from people in this city of immeasurable wealth and social status); in Dubai he is part of the lower salary bracket and classified as a 'bachelor'--due to how small his salary is he cannot afford accomodation anywhere (and sharing is illegal, and he's had run ins with the authorities over sharing). In his village where he is from he is ‘top dog’ and due to his wealth, during Eid he (when located there) buys meat for the entire village.

Kyle said...

I guess only when one comes across such events/experiences, do they realize the humane side of oneself!

The fact that you've shared these with us is a start, a step forward I guess.

Don't stop.

Cheers :)

i*maginate said...

It's a vicious cycle, seabee. On the one hand, as you say, according to these workers, they have it better here, so their families, if they could bring them here, would think the same.

I also think if they could bring their families here, it would have positive sociological ramifications.

On the other hand, the govt would need to set a minimum wage so the family could support itself while here...imagine a min. wage in Dubai...what would that be, $4 an hour? lol

As for arranged marriage, I believe in it. "Arranged" doesn't necessarily mean 2 ppl meet for the first time on their wedding day, though this happens in underpriveleged sectors of society mainly in the ME and Asia...and in very conservative religious societies..."Arranged" can also mean somebody is "recommended" to a person as a suitor in marriage - simply an introduction by a friend or family member. It's like matchmaking :)

Seabee said...

Ah yes, i*maginate, a minimum wage. It is being discussed and hopefully will be introduced as a law before too long. We're seeing it with maid salaries already, with co-operation between the government here and in the home countries.

i*maginate said...

A minimum wage in the UAE would reap immediate benefits for the lower income bracket, as long as it's higher than the current wage in that sector. Because of the huge discrepancy in different sectors and positions - moreso in the UAE than in EU countries, for example, I don't see how setting a minimum wage will help unless it's sector specific!

I've just had a look at this article and others' opinions on the issue

http://www.gulf-news.com/nation/Employment/10036863.html

Many refer to "labourers", who are the dominant sector in the lower income bracket, but there are plenty more workers earning the same amount in other jobs, for example waiters/waitresses, shop attendants etc...all of whom a minimum wage would benefit.

I don't think it would be fair to implement a min. wage only accross this sector, though. They really should have wage guidelines for various professions and "grades" - let's take the hotel industry as an example. Room rates are on a par with London rates - how come a waitress will earn approx. Dhs. 1200 per month? That doesn't make sense...

And if a min wage is set for the low-income sector, I believe they should be allowed to bring their families here. By setting a minimum wage, wouldn't that imply that wage would be adequate for "living" - and supporting ones' family?

But...the implentation of a min wage might increase costs and prices...

The GN article dates back to Jan 2006; the labour law to ca. 1980 :)

Brn said...

Yes, I am very late to commenting on this ;)

A minimum wage isn't going to improve the overall situation though. It will benefit those whose salaries go up, but it will also mean that end of jobs for many others.

Whatever labor field there is, whether housekeeping or construction, there is only a limited amount of money that will be spent on it. Minimum wage laws just divide that money into fewer but smaller pools. The overall effect is at best nil - it is more likely to be a net loss.

What we need is to focus on eliminating the dishonesty in how these men and women are treated and then treat them like adults. If someone in another country knows what the conditions are like and still agree to come, then respect their decision.

Seabee said...

brn, that's exactly right about the minimum wage - another example of the complexity of the whole issue.