Wednesday, September 21, 2005

western versus orientals : From Dubai's perspective

Last week, a job notice board put by an Indian businessperson in South Africa caused furore. It said his work place needs hard working Indian accountant, Black slim (not fat) sexy African as counter girl and tall white woman as a manager. Media lambasted him of racial bias while he defended saying that he is fair in accommodating all races. I do not know if he would be paying equivalent and just salary to all three races.

Middle East, UAE and Dubai is also receptive in accepting all races but it appears to have discrimination based on geographical status, his place of graduation. Job advertisement in UAE newspapers are prominent in specifying the requirement of USA, UK qualification but I wonder if an Asian is given the same emoluments as that of western expatriate if he has same qualification. Class segragation of western versus orientals, in terms of emoluments is distinct in work place. That is brutal reality and one must accept that.

Dubai despite all its glamour, relatively inexpensive food, and relaxed life style takes beating with astronomical house rentals, high telephone charges . However, what hits most are skewed HR policies that effect mainly people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. If you are from these countries and are newcomer to Dubai, there are chances that companies offer you meager salary saying that “You do not have Middle East experience’’, If you are middle management, you would not grow in salary with a fear of employment ban and cancellation of visa status. If you aspire to be at top management, you may have to face competition from another quarter – western expatriate. Yet, middle east is full of the above asian nationalities , more so Indians and they are here over many years. What is most interesting is the fact that they keep on projecting glossy image to their peer group in their own country resulting in more people who flock to UAE with flawed expectations.

Policies and laws in government establishment clearly favor nationals, that is understandable. After all its their country and they must develop their own human resources. Expatriates are invited because they do serve their need on transient basis and hence they are governed by different set of rule than that for Nationals . These are stated and everyone is aware of these laws. However, what comes as a surprise is the behavior of expatriate community that discriminate fellow expatriates based on geogrphical consideration. They do so despite there is no such law that compels them to do so. By and large, people from western world are paid much higher salaries and given plum designations than those for equivalent Asians. Most Asians accept this prejudice with resigned fate. They take solace in the fact that Dubai treats all nationalities very well; it is a very comfortable and great place to live. This very nature makes asians work and slog all their life. By their sheer hard work, asians particularly indians have remained the backbone of the UAE econom. Thanks to lifestyle accorded to westerners , western expatiates can afford to play golf and have beer at the Irish Village or Hard rock cafe , while equivalent asian expatriate would be it beyound the reach.

It is ironical that Arabs despite being culturally closer to Asian community have penchant for westerners. Arabs love asian biryani , Indian movies and even be fluent in Hindi but shall always consider westerners superior to Asians. It is amusing to hear some companies boasting their status by number of western general managers they have on their payroll. Is it that Arab derives a sense of déjà vu superiority of making colonial masters to work under him? The love of westerner goes beyond the office. Western entertainers also command premium over Asians. East Europeans, are the one of the beneficiaries in that segment.

One american commented that his colleague –project manager of Indian descent but resident of America could not be accommodated in his Dubai office as an existing western expatriate felt that this Asian would overshadow him. Western expatriate knew his weakness in his work but was also aware of his inherent strength that compensated for his lack of ability. This American came to the conclusion that different races in Dubai may exist in harmony but it is likely suffers from discrimination in the work place.

Everyone knows the contribution by asians in UAE. If all the asians in the UAE were to leave, the UAE would be in a crisis similar to what happened to Uganda when Idi Amin ordered them out. After the Kuwait invasion, Kuwait nationals understood that their telephones, air conditioners work because there is some Asian doing his job.

I was told that one of the premium Saudi university hospital managed with American collaboration have three levels of salaries for nurses, First level is for western nurses having UK, USA qualification, Second ; for non western having UK USA qualification, and Third level ; for Asians having no western qualification. This is not true with for salaries but also with accommodation standard. Whites get exclusive villa, Nonwhites with UK/USA qualification get shares villas, other Asians are not so fortunate

I often wonder if this trend would ever reverse or slow down. However, when I think about this issue, I realize that discrimination is deep rooted in our very existence of our lives. Even in our own country, do we not discriminate between local people and those who come from rural areas of Bihar, Orissa, UP? Sheer gigantic population of Asian sub continent undervalues the market price in Middle East. If a person from subcontinent is not happy with his emoluments, there is another person who is younger, fitter, and more qualified to do a job at lesser emolument. The answer definitely lies in national progress. As standard of living becomes better, the exploitation slows down. Look at Hyderabad, quality software people who come from Hyderabad are neither enamored by the glamour, cleanliness of Dubai, nor the work excitement it offers. They would consider Dubai job only if they get it on their terms. South Asian countries have shown that. How many Thai, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Koreans are seen working in Dubai?

Economic considerations also dictate the geographical discrimination. I wonder if Emirates airlines pay the same salary to all nationalities that do the same job as airhostess or flight purser. If they pay same salary as Asian expatriate, they would not get any western European or Japanese work for them. If they pay Asian same as others, it would drain them economically. Most companies tend mix a right balance. Backdoor hardworking Asian workers at competitive prices, Front door, visible glossed image of western aristocracy at premium prices. - Much the same way as Indian businessperson in South Africa did with his job advertisement.

Imran Khan in his autobiography nicely summarized the mindset of people from Indian subcontinent. He felt that in 70’s, Pakistan cricket team despite all their superior skills and spirit surrendered the match to English team well before even a ball was bowled . For them, being invited to England and given an opportunity to shake hand with British Queen and play shoulder to shoulder with english players, itself was a great honour and privilege. How can they be impudent in defeating their host on cricket field? He said, his first task was to remove inferiority mindset of his teammates and once he did, victory was easy.

It is unlikely in near future, discimination in Middle East would go down. I only hope that a realization among people of subcontinent will make them rally with eachother to reduce the geographical, religious bias among their own fellow citizens.


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