A personal rant about Dubai’s labourers
Every now and then my children’s school participates in a “charity box appeal” where you have to fill a small box with various essentials to give to Dubai’s labourers (if you aren’t familiar with the term, these are the manual workers who work long shifts, earn a pittance and live cheek-by-jowl in “labour camps”). A list comes home with each empty box – they ask for things like soap, shampoo, razors, shaving foam, shower gel, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a baseball cap, a t-shirt, a hand towel and so on.
And, while I’m always happy to help these guys, the whole thing – if I’m honest – makes me angry. Not because I’m a spoiled expat who doesn’t appreciate what Dubai’s labourers do, but because these men should not be charity cases. They’re not refugees; they’re not homeless; and nor are they jobless.
They’re actually men in full-time paid employment in a first world country. And my children are sending them free soap, for heaven’s sake. Soap.
The “charity drives” make me feel angry toward the employers who think it’s fine to bring these men over to a foreign country and pay them so little that they have to rely on the kindness of strangers for their basic essentials. What kind of company can do that? What kind of employer can sleep at night knowing that his paid staff is relying on charity hand-outs just to keep clean? Have they no sense of social responsibility? No concept of karma?
The whole thing makes me feel so hopeless. Sick, actually.
But then, yesterday, I saw a picture in the paper of a labourer receiving his box. And the expression on his face made me forget, for a minute, my anger towards his employer.
But even the sight of 1,000 (clean and) happy faces doesn’t change a thing. While I’d never want to detract from the charity box appeals and the welcome relief that they bring, relying on hand-outs for basics is not the answer. This is a problem that can only be addressed from the top down.