Dignity trumps charity for Gulf workers

After a stint in the Gulf, it's important to note that these men and women return home better equipped, trained and ready for employment and entrepreneurship.

Published: Sat 13 Jun 2015, 10:43 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:50 PM

Gulf countries have opened avenues of opportunity for workers from developing nations who struggle with low wages and poor working conditions back home. There’s dignity in toiling and remitting money than depending on charity from rich nations flush with oil reserves and revenues, who are in the midst of an economic boom. The GCC, by providing employment to less-privileged people from other countries, has taught them to fend for themselves, and not count on humanitarian aid for the upliftment of their communities.

A recent survey found that expatriates from different countries in the Gulf, who are mostly low-income labourers, sent home $100 billion in remittances, or 6.2 per cent of the GDP of the six countries in the region which totals $1.6 trillion. Poor workers have earned from the sweat of their brow; they have held their heads high and have not come here with a begging bowls. Instead, they have travelled of their own accord in search of better lives — for them and for their families. They pay off debts, feed their kin, give their children an education with the money remitted from distant lands.

This signals a fundamental shift in efforts to eradicate global poverty and hunger. World bodies like the International Labor Organisation and global charities must acknowledge and appreciate the Gulf Cooperation Council’s role in this experiment and desist from pick holes in the conditions of labour accommodations.

Workers’ rights have improved in the GCC over the years, with some countries even building smart cities for migrant labour. The tax-free environment these countries offer is attractive to expats, who have seen their savings rise manifold. Gulf currencies have been pegged to the dollar, which is appreciating, and workers realise they can earn more by staying here for a limited period. As a poverty alleviation mechanism, there’s nothing better than this arrangement — a win-win situation for both sides.

GCC states rely heavily on foreign labour to build spanking new, modern cities and to run their systems. This investment in an expatriate workforce helps diversify their economies away from the core oil sector. Capital inflows are rising and massive investments are being made in areas like health and education. But these countries have small populations of citizens and an even smaller pool of nationals whom they can deploy to work. Hence, countries like Egypt, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, with high densities of populations, are able to fill in the gaps in different sectors of the GCC economy.

After a stint in the Gulf, it’s important to note that these men and women return home better equipped, trained and ready for employment and entrepreneurship. They are empowered, socially mobile and confident in the ability to rebuild their lives, countries and communities.

They have been taught to fish — abroad — as the old Chinese proverb goes — and will not be used as bait for charity at home.

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