2005/08/09

Cheap Labor

Most of the residents here, the ones that actually do the work to keep the place going, the cabbies, truck drivers, cooks, waiters, garbage men, store clerks, security guards, are from very poor countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, India (though there are also a lot of middle and upper class Indians too), and the Phillipines.  They come here because they can make a lot more here and then send money home to support their families.  One of my co-workers told me that he talked with a cabbie here who sent two sons to college back home on his pay here, so now one was doctor and one a lawyer.  But compared to what I and other Westerners make, the amount that they make is nearly insignificant.

As a result, I have paid people to do things here that I would never in a million years dream of paying someone to do back home.  I don't even mean things that I would do just to save a little money, like changing the oil on the car.  Things like pumping gas (can you even still pay anyone to do that back home?), getting a shave at the barber shop, or having a wash room attendant (I'm not paying this last one directly, but his salary has got to be reflected in the price of the stuff at the store).

It was the shave that seems that most decadent.  The barber is an Indian, he takes great pride and care in his work.  My friend who referred me to him told me that the barber hates it when my friend rushes him.  He gave me a great haircut (well, as good as I'm capable of getting) for just 10 dirhams.  So I went with my friend the next week, and he said, "you should get a shave."  It seemed sort of ridiculous, but I tried it, and it is great.  And only 5 to 7 dirhams.  To me it is pocket change, but to this man and his family it is a living.  And to most of his customers, I'm guessing that a weekly or monthly haircut and shave are the only 15 minutes of their lives where they are the ones being pampered, instead of the other way around.

Another thing about cheap labor is that you see a lot more people on a job than would ever be used in America.  For example, when the cable company came to hook up my satellite here, they brought five people, one of whom did nothing buy take the receiver out of the box, one who supervised and gave orders, and three that did the heavy lifting.  It took them about 2 and a half hours.  When DirecTV hooked up my dish in NC, one man came, and he finished in a half hour.


5 comments:

Mohamed Elzubeir said...

That's funny, comparing efficiency of services in the UAE to that in NC. At the very least, it was a problem from their side and took 2 hours longer.

How complicated was it to install a fixed line? I remember in Texas, where you simply plugged in your phone, rung up the operator and gave in some details.. a few hours later and you were in business. Here, I have to show every proof possible of my being and the why I exist to begin with. Horrible.

In my experience, when I ordered e-Vision cable services, it was three guys -- but maybe it's because I lived in a small apartment ;)

Your generosity reminds me of a taxi driver I had a conversation with. He went on saying how he hated Americans and Britons, etc. Then later on in the conversation I asked him who his favorite customers are...

drum roll...

Americans and Britons ;)

Brn said...

Thanks for the comments Mohamed (and good luck with the non-smoking). Installing the land-line here wasn't too bad (except for the guys being 2 1/2 hours later than Etisalat had said). It only took them (3 guys) about 15 minutes to get everything running. The DSL guys, on the other hand...

The comments of the taxi driver are really interesting. I think that most nationalities are ok when you take the people individually. It is when you get them together in a group that they cause problems.

Hurricane_ said...

Brn
You didn't mentioning car washes, here in the US I wash my own car but I DUBAI a Bengali used to wash my car every other day 100dhs/month and I did that only because of the reasons you mentioned. I always tipped when I was there even though I was told the servers are on a fixed SALARY but that SALARY I found out was JOKE. Some of these people also took advantage of my generosity and would always quote me a higher price but it was OK by me since it the receipts were going to the co accountant.

The cable connection story was FUNNY, I remember direct tv doing a 4 bedroom hook up for me in 45 mins.

Brn said...

I completely forgot about carwashing too. The same here, a man at work washes the car three times a week for 100 dirhams a month.

Dhabi Dabbler said...

Thanks for making me a co-worker or do taxis from Abu Dhabi often work in Al Ain!
Seriously though 2500dh per month for driving a taxi doesn't seem much to a Westerner but it compares very well to 450 dh per month for being a coffee boy in an office. Don't mention minimum wages in the UAE, they don't exist.