Thursday, August 06, 2009

Here's one to get you going.

Discrimination. An interesting subject and one which causes heated debate.

Not just debate of course but abuse and extemist ranting. It's been a while since the ranters have screamed abuse at me, so here's an opportunity.

Anti-racism body welcomes UAE efforts to combat discrimination

Geneva: The UAE reviewed on Tuesday the achievements it has made regarding the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination before the committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

That's the beginning of a story in 'Gulf News' this morning.

Note that the presentation outlined the steps and measures taken by the country to enforce the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

All forms of racial discrimination.

Also in today's 'Gulf News' there are very many employment ads which are distinctly discriminatory and wouldn't be allowed in many other countries. Examples:

Accountant, Indian, age below 30,

Sales Consultant, Indian, with experience

Cashier (6 Nos.), Filipino, female.

IT Technician, Filipino.

Outdoor Sales Executive, female, Pakistani.

Young Pakistani, diploma & BSC in Electronics.

Pharmacist & Dentist, Arab, male, required.

Arab National Sales Manager.

Western Commercial Manager.

Legislation in many countries wouldn't allow those ads not only because they're specific about nationality/ethnicity but also because of gender and age specifications. Australia is a typical example, where the law forbids mention of nationality, ethnicity, male or female, or the age of the candidate because to do so would be discrimination.

In spite of the UAE reporting that it is eliminating all forms of racial discrimination, we have ads on a daily basis which are blatantly discriminatory.

So should it be banned? It's actually companies simply specifying precisely what they're looking for. There's an argument that it makes sense for, as an example, an Indian company with Indian employees and a mainly Indian clientele to want an Indian salesman and to be able to say so in its advertising. If they weren't allowed to be precise and had to say simply 'salesman required' very many people of other nationalities would apply for the job. But they'd be wasting their time and effort because the company would employ an Indian anyway

There's no question that it discriminates against all the other nationalities.

I think the most interesting point about banning discrimination is where the line is drawn.

Vilification and abuse based on ethnicity, certainly the line has to be drawn before that.

But should it be unlawful for an employment ad to specify a nationality? And for the company to deny other applicants the job based on their nationality?

And what about name calling?

An interesting insight into that came up not so long ago, about the term 'Paki'. In the UK it's a term of abuse, used and taken as an insult. In Australia it's just an abbreviation, so newspaper posters for example will refer to cricket along the lines of 'Paki bowlers tear through Aussies'.

So in the UAE, where is the line going to be drawn I wonder.

'Gulf News' has the story here.


James O'Hearn said...

Dubai is in a really complicated bind when it comes to the whole "discrimination" issue.

Take pay, for instance. In other countries, it would be illegal to have such wildly disparate salaries based on nationality. I know of more than a few instance where two people working at the same job earn wildly different pay levels. Usually a Westerner will get one pay, and a South Asian about a third to a quarter the same amount.

In the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK, I am sure that this sort of standard practice would not be tolerated. But here is it a matter of discrimination? Or is the practice more related to economic factors like purchasing power parity? The South Asian making a quarter the salary of the Westerner may actually be getting the better bargain when you factor in the fact that most expats here are only here to earn and save and head back home.

Another are where "discrimination" is not so simple an issue is in regards to shared accommodation. In Dubai, people are often very polite because impoliteness and misunderstandings can head to very ugly areas very quickly. So often ads regarding shared accommodation specify gender and ethnicity. Not because the city is filled with rabid racists, but because factors like gender, religion, language, and ethnicity can be a recipe for trouble. Mixed gender shared accommodations may be fine for Westerners, but not for many other nationalities. Mixed language, religion, or ethnicity? Unless the people know each other, trust each other, and can communicate with each other, serious problems have a way of popping up.

One other element to factor in is "Emiratization." The policy is essential if the UAE is to build a highly skilled, educated, and experienced domestic workforce. But hHow do you classify this policy? Is it akin to affirmative action? How does it fit within the non-discriminatory framework?

The whole non-discrimination thing sounds noble and great in normal, pluralistic western nation, but I think there are factors at play in Dubai which should at least give policy makers pause.

Keefieboy said...

It's a right can o' worms: foreigners (even from the GCC) are pretty much denied the opportunity to become Emiratis and avail of all the benefits entailed by that. Until the UAE assimilates 'guest workers' into its society, there will always be racism of this kind. It's not going to happen, though, is it?

Terry said...

Just curious if your screen name "Seabee" has any connection to the U.S. Navy Seabees?

Seabee said...

Terry, no, nothing to do with the US Seabees.

James, it's very complicated here isn't it, making where to draw the line even more difficult. Keefie used the key phrase in his comment - 'guest workers'. In a guest worker society where the guest workers can't become citizens but are here temporarily to earn money to send home, salary parity can't work in the way it does in the societies we're used to. It's a much more complicated formula based on salaries, education levels, cost of living of home country. If a westerner and a South Asian ( or a Brit and a South African) are both paid, say, twice what they would earn at home that makes a very different salary here.

Very different salaries here, yet they're all earning twice what they were at home.

Affirmative action is discrimination, but should it be banned (not only here) because it is?

And the language, culture thing comes very much into the equation, as you point out.

It's a difficult one isn't it. I suspect that here, a truly international guest worker area, the line has to be drawn in a very different place from where it's drawn in places like the UK and Oz.

James O'Hearn said...

It's a difficult one isn't it.

Amen to that.

I find the best way to deal with this issue, at least for myself, is to not think about it. Or, at least, doublethink about it.

There is a certain through-the-looking-glass quality to this place that I find almost impossible to relate or translate to family and friends back home.

rosh said...

This, quite honestly is the ugliest truth in the UAE. People discriminate because they can. I'm not sure if things shall change. It's quite widespread across most Asian nations. Sad stuff..

Anonymous said...

it is the same in most south asian countries? you mean countries like india/ pakistan/ srilanka etc? could we have a better understanding of this? where else except the gulf do you have so many nationalities coming for jobs in such numbers? and where else is the discrimination by race so supported by the govt and legal system?

Dubai Property said...

There is no doubt in it that there is discrimination in UAE and it is very difficult and time consuming to eradicate it because it is very DEEP in UAE society.