We are who we are, largely because of the opportunities made possible to us by our country. For many, however, this is not the case and we are surrounded by proof of that every day; all we have to do, is open our minds and empathize.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question I am sure many children have heard and can relate to. At different stages of time, the answer has varied from wanting to be a ballerina to wanting to be an astronaut; the answers would depend on the region, its traditions, education, accessibility to news and media, and many other factors. The one constant has been the sentiment behind the answers; the ambitious spirit. What children don’t account for when they give their answers is the socioeconomic situation they were born into. Many of these children with big dreams and high hopes for their future grow up to realize a harsh and bitter reality; that yes, while every person in the world has choices, unfortunately, these choices are limited.
I am referring to those who are a constant part of our lives; the invisibles, the ones who dedicate every waking hour to satisfying our every need, who are barely ever recognized for what they contribute to our lives. They endure difficult lives to make ours easier and take jobs that necessity forced them into and that necessity forces them to keep. They are our construction workers, our housekeepers, our drivers and all the others that work day in and day out under every imaginable hardship to receive salaries that most of us could frivolously spend over a weekend.
A study by the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine notes that the highest occupational choices in India are all jobs that fall under the low income category. Meaning that 340 million people, 92% of India’s work force, receive an average income of RS. 4,956 per month, which is equivalent to only AED 250. For many, this salary is not enough to ensure that their families receive the bare necessities of life, like water, food, and shelter, forcing most primary caregivers to leave their loved ones and their countries in hopes of providing for their families from another country.
According to Humaid Rashid Al Suwaidi, UAE Assistant Undersecretary of Labour Affairs, there are about 1,500,000 labor workers in the UAE alone. Over 1 million people who wake up every morning to assemble bricks, mix cement, sleep in a room with an average of 5 other people and only see their families every 2 to 4 years. Over 1 million! As for domestic workers, migrant-rights.org reports that 96% of Emirati families have housekeepers that are taking care of their houses and their children. That is 750,000 people sacrificing the chance to raise their own children in the hopes of providing them with a better life.
Many of us have been raised to believe that we can achieve anything we set our minds to. The influx of successful young men and women that are emerging every day in the UAE are proof of that notion. However, what many fail to comprehend is that we are privileged to be born in a country that extends every effort to provide us with the means to become engineers, doctors, scientists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, writers and whatever we dream of being. Our choices are varied and our opportunities are endless. For that alone – we must not just be grateful, but humbled and gracious as well.
Next time you see a construction worker drilling in the heat, a tired waitress serving you food or your housekeeper dusting, please remember what they are giving up every day. Remember that at some point in their lives they have had to face the harsh reality. That instead of working towards something they aspired to be, they had to settle for any job that would allow them to provide for their family. Make no mistake, giving up the ambitions they had for their lives and accepting a tiring, demanding alternative, was never a choice they aspired to make. It is not a choice, it is a necessity, one that they have to endure because no better opportunity was ever made possible for them.
- Bedirian, R. (2015, April 14). UAE Worker Numbers up 10% in 2014. Retrieved from Gulf News: http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/government/uae-worker-numbers-up-10-in-2014-1.1491826
- Indian Journal of Occupational and Enviromental Medicine. (2012, May). Socio-economic status of workers of building consturction industry. Retrieved from NCBI: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3617510/
- Migrant Rights. (2016). Domestic Workers. Retrieved from Migrant Rights: http://www.migrant-rights.org/statistic/domesticworkers/