Monday, October 20, 2008

Get Rich Quick!

If you are an impoverished TCN [Third Country National] all you need to do to get rich quick is find a recruiter who will make it possible for you to toil your life away in the Sandbox. You will be promised "financial freedom" but in actuality you will never come anywhere close to receiving that! You will likely be told that your skills are needed but once you get here you will find that you will have the opportunity to hone them in a completely different and totally unrelated profession. If you are one of the chosen you may even find that you will benefit greatly by being given the opportunity to work outside in the steaming hot fresh air. Many will not be chosen and they will, instead, work indoors...

One of our former gardener's was from Bangladesh. He was a plumber there. Somehow he ended up being one of the chosen ones to work outside. I did not let him go because of the work that he did - his work was okay - he worked very, very hard. I let him go because when we moved eight blocks from the townhouse to the house it was about impossible for him to be able to work for us. He would turn the sprinkler's on, out front, when the bus dropped him off and then run - literally - to the area he was assigned to work. On his lunch hour, he would race back to our house to do the other gardening work and then race back to his assigned area forty or forty-five minutes later. He did this for four or five weeks and then he offered me a replacement - a friend of his - who actually worked in our area. The deal was that he wanted me to pay him and that he would pay his friend. Got to give him credit for being such an entrepreneur. I did hire his friend for a short time. His friend spoke NO English whatsoever and we had no way of communicating. Shortly thereafter I called the service and requested both a gardener and houseboy. The gardener they sent me had, obviously, never been a gardener a day in his life, and that he wore a shirt that said "Gardener" didn't make him one. That is when I hired Appuk who does a most excellent job and hopefully he will be with us until we leave here.

I digress...

In today's Saudi Gazette there is a short article about 30 female workers who have "stopped work in protest at their pay and alleged exploitation by their contracting company." [Yeah. Imagine that. A contracting company exploiting their workers!] The women have accused their contracting company of cutting their monthly pay by 75 riyals to pay for their Iqamas. There is a law - somewhere - that says that the employing company is supposed to pay for workers documents, so the contracting company is in violation but from what we have ALL seen in the past, the company will never have to worry about being charged for violating the law. That just doesn't happen, here. 75 riyals is not much money. To most of us. To the workers who are only being paid 400 riyals a month - that is almost a quarter of their income and it is a lot! 75 riyals is $20.10. 400 riyals - their monthly pay - is $107.23. "The women are demanding a raise in their salaries from SR400 to SR600 per month, plus the opportunity to receive paid overtime." If they are successful and get their pay raised to 600 riyals a month, they will be making $160.85. The Filipinia supervisor said that "they were seeking a rise in pay as their current salaries did not even cover their living expenses, adding that they were only given shifts of six hours, leading them to look for additional work, something which their contracting firm has forbidden."

For the sake of argument, assume that the shifts of these cleaners are six hours and only five days a week [although it is probably six days a week - few "imported" workers get two days off per week - very, very few]. At a minimum these women are working 30 hours a week at a current pay rate of $107.23 per month. Their yearly income amounts to $1,286.76 - their weekly income would be $24.74 and that would make their hourly wage .82 [EIGHTY-TWO CENTS!!!]. If the women are successful and get a 200 riyal monthly raise, their yearly income increases to $1,930.29 and their weekly income will go up to $37.12 for an hourly wage of $1.23.

Honestly, I do not know how anyone can survive on such measly wages. The street cleaners and gardeners who work eight-hours, six days a week are paid wages that are about the same - 400 to 600 riyals a month. That makes their hourly wage .51 to .77. Yes. Fifty-one cents to seventy-seven cents an hour for working outside in miserably hot conditions either pushing a broom and picking up trash or raking leaves and trimming hedges. If you think for one skinny second that a "local" would EVER consider working under the conditions that so many of these imported workers do, and for the meager wages they are paid, you would be very, very wrong.

It is so sad, and makes me very, very blessed to have been born in the United States where I was able to have choices. Choices that allowed me to go to school and get a good job and make decent wages. Ditto for my DH. Yes, we have chosen to come here to live and work but we are treated completely differently than the imported workers are, and we are paid significantly more than the poor little workers are. I am going to try to keep this in mind when I complain about my life being so difficult - that I cannot drive, that shops are closed for the entire afternoon and I can't get anything done, that I must don a black bag before leaving the confines of our compound... All those "little" things are really so trivial compared to what so many others here must endure. And, for that, I truly am thankful!


  1. Yes we all should count our blessings seeing those poor creatures toiling in the sun...

    By the way you seem to compare the amount they get in saudi with USA Currency and the cost of living in USA.

    The avearge starting salary in Bank or Govt sector for a Clerk is US $ 100. so it may not be correct to compare with USA.

    Yes no doubt they are low paid considering the hard work, food they get and the stay facilities.

    I appreciate the concern you have for these people, which many of us dont have...

  2. In my previous comment the salary of the clerk --- say in India is..US $ 100.

  3. Jupiter - I do the comparison, i.e., the money exchange, because most Americans - and others - unless they live here in Saudi or close by - do not know the value of a single riyal.

    You are quite right in suggesting that it is not fair of me to compare US salaries to what someone would make in India or elsewhere - I have no clue - but I am suggesting that working for $.77 an hour isn't a wage - not even, here. I spend what some of these laborers are making per month in the grocery store on any given day. Yes, we are not living on rice - but fresh fruit and vegetables are not cheap here and everyone needs them for their diet.

    I also know what it does cost to live here - and I know that the wages these people work for are wages that NO "local" would even consider working for!

  4. Yes in principle i agree with u..well here in oman they have minimum wages which is around RO 120 say 300 US $. , expat salary start anywhere between 60 - some cases 40 to 50 also..

    What i could not digest is the working hours...can you imagine they have to work all the 365 days without any rest...we all wait for the weekend to sleep one - two hours more..oh GOD day in day out getting up at 6 am for work..very sad..sometimes the leave rotation is every two yrs...hmm

    whereas the leave schedule for locals in interior ie desert location is 8 days leave for every 15 - 20 days work...hmm

  5. that rate of pay is terrible when so many people are making so much. A case of the extreme's isn't it.


  6. You made my point exactly, Jupiter! "Locals" would not only never consider working for the meager amount of pay, but they want two days a week off. The imported workers do not get nearly the pay and they get nowhere near the time off.

  7. It is definitely an extreme, Gill! I don't know how they survive on the amount of money they are paid. Well, that's not true, I do know how they survive. And it is not pretty.


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