Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maids' wages

About ten days ago I was talking about the new minimum wage bringing a better deal for Indian maids.

In it I said that it's a highly complex issue and I talked about the different wages which different nationalities view as fair and acceptable, which attracted some debate.

Today there's a story in Gulf News that reinforces both points. People are saying that they can no longer afford to hire maids, which obviously means that some maids will lose their jobs and will no longer be able to send money back for their families. That's just one complexity.

And there's a list of the minimum wages set by some maid-supplying countries. It demonstrates the difference in what the governments of these countries believe is a fair and acceptable wage for their citizens. The lowest wage is half the highest wage.

None of them are saying, as well-meaning but naive westerners all-too often say, that citizens of all countries must be paid the same wage. That 'there's a rate for the job'. They acknowledge the temporary guest-worker nature of our workplace, the fact of remittances, the relationship with the wages, cost of living and economy of the home country. They base the minimum wages for their people on that.

The monthly minimum wage for maids is:

Philippines: Dh1,470
India: Dh1,100
Sri Lanka: Dh825
Indonesia: Dh800
Bangladesh: Dh750

Here's the full story in Gulf News.


caz said...

I am one of the well meaning but naive Westerners to whom you refer.
If I read your figures correctly, A Filipino will earn nearly twice as much as a Bangladeshi for doing exactly the same job.
In fact, you could have one from each area, all doing an exactly similar job in different apartments in the same block, each earning a different wage from the others.

The gap is self evident, and I am still amazed that intelligent people can go along with this nonsense.


Seabee said...

Well Caz, they're not 'my' figures but those determined by the various governments as the correct minimum wage for their own citizens.

You've grasped the fact that there isn't a very simplistic 'rate for the job'. In fact the examples you give are certainly a fact of life.

Bear in mind these are official minimum wages, employers may pay more if they wish.

Yes the gap is self evident...but it would only be "nonsense" if it was a simple issue you think it is and not the highly complicated and complex one that I tried to explain - which others including the various governments involved also understand as highly complex.

If you go back over this and the previous post and comments, and other blogs on similar subjects, you'll see we're talking about temporary guest workers, remittances, wage rates & cost of living in worker-supply countries, employment opportunities, family support...there's a whole raft of factors that take it far from the labour market, work practices, society which you have experienced and understand.

i*maginate said...

seabee, you do a great job in keeping this blog and providing the general public with an easy interpretation of local happenings. Thumbs up.

Seabee said...

Aw shucks i*, you embarrass me.

CG said...

OK. Here is my bit: Last April (not long after the Philippines made there new maid rules) my maid was due for contract renewal. I offered her the choice to go back home and try to get a new job on the higher wages or to renew with me and stay on the same. She tried to call my bluff, but I presented her with the cancellation form and told her she was not worth the double. She renewed on the same salary. Last September my friend went to the agency to hire a new maid (also from flip-flop land) and was told the salary would be 900 Dh p.m., not 1400 as we had read in the papers.
Anyway, I am not sure who these laws are designed for, but me thinks something is not quite right.
ditto what i* said about your excellent reporting skills seabee.....

Anonymous said...

Since I found a lot of current posts and discussions on this blog, I thought I can get an answer to my problem: I'm looking for companies (or people) that handle all the paperwork for my visa registation, company registration, etc. in Dubai. I have a local sponsor but I want someone else to run around and get all my paperwork sorted out. I would appreciate if anyone can offer suggestions!

Seabee said...

Anon you need what's known as a PR man - a local Emirati who will do all the paperwork. Talk to your local sponsor about it.

Anonymous said...

Hey 'naive westerner' what Taka 10 can get you in Bangladesh can only be dreamed of for Pesos 10 in the Philippines! That's the difference. Moreover there's a huge difference in quality of work. I have lived in both countries.