Monday, April 6, 2009

The Towers of Dubai

"You're contributing, directly or indirectly, to the enslavement of a migrant workforce. That's a difficult pill to swallow, but when you look at the evidence that's a fact." -- NGO official on tourists and foreign investors in Dubai quoted in a BBC article here.

The glittering towers of the petroleum capital of the world, Dubai, are built by legions of badly exploited and underpaid workers from India, Bangladesh, and the Phillipines who work 10 hour days, 6 days a week for less than $200 a month. They work under 2 year contracts in a country that forbids trade unions and collective bargaining. They are lucky if they can break even after that 2 years, since much of their salaries go to pay off as much as $3000 in illegal broker's fees.

On the one hand, this kind of exploitation is endemic to the Persian Gulf. Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Emirates have long been notorious for their treatment of foreign workers. On the other hand, Dubai is constantly presented to us as a model for success in the contemporary world, attracting huge amounts of foreign (especially Western) investment, and many celebrities.


toujoursdan said...

And then you have the racism. Western (white) workers make great salaries, live in beautiful homes and are exempt from many of the Muslim customs and laws, as long as they don't cause a scandal.

The CBC had a fascinating documentary on Dubai (Dubai: Miracle or Mirage) where they interviewed a Canadian of East Indian decent who is frequently assumed to be one of these poor guest workers and subject to all kinds of discrimination until they realize he is a westerner.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Isn't Dubai on the verge of bankrupcy due to too much spending on white elephants?