United Arab Emirates Poverty Rate A Secret Shame

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ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates poverty rate, according to one article, can be blamed on image and a culture of keeping up with the appearance of wealth. But the numbers themselves are complicated, as exploited workers who make luxury apartments for the wealthy are not reported by the government.

In the article “Any Poor Emiratis Out There?”, Fatema Al Kamali and Hamda Al Bastaki wrote that most Emirati families own luxury cars on finance, and highlight Ministry of Social Affairs research that suggests “high standards” as a cause of the United Arab Emirates poverty rate. “People wouldn’t be living in poor conditions if luxurious life had not been one of their priorities. Ninety-eight per cent of families getting help from the Red Crescent have loans that leave them unable to pay for the essentials of living,” the article states.

While there is a group that studies it, the information is not available. “The ministry is working on research to come up with detailed statistics about poverty in the UAE which will be available by the end of 2011,” says Abdulsamad Al Kamali, coordinator at the Social Security Administration, Ministry of Social Affairs. According to the information, the United Arab Emirates poverty rate is zero, based on a poverty line of about $22 a day.

Other statistics to be found are from before the global economic crisis of 2008. According to IndexMundi, the United Arab Emirates poverty rate was about 20 percent in 2003. IndexMundi notes that countries have different standards of what poverty means.A fair amount of those living in poverty in the Emirates are actual natives, but the hope of earning more money lures a million ex-patriots from India.

A fair amount of those living in poverty in the Emirates are actual natives, but the hope of earning more money has lured a million ex-patriots from India. Like Mexicans who pay to get to the United States, workers from the Indian subcontinent go through a similar process, and are robbed. In Kamali’s and Bastaki’s article, construction workers are the lowest-paid employees in the UAE, but are supposedly above the poverty line. According to the BBC, construction workers on a high-rise luxury apartment for footballer Michael Owen told a different story.

The workers, said reporter Lily Allen, told “a grim tale. None had been paid the money they were promised by the recruitment agencies, and many said they couldn’t afford to eat properly, living on a diet of potatoes, lentils and bread. Average salaries are often no more than £120 a month. This for a six-day week, often working up to 12-hour shifts. One company paid approximately 30p an hour for overtime.”

One other reason that the United Arab Emirates poverty rate is hard to find is censorship from the government. The UAE, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is seen as a playground for the rich, and the government likes to perpetuate a fairytale lifestyle, despite millions of workers from countries like Bangladesh, who come in the hopes of making more money.

Reporters are not encouraged to write about poverty, or exploited workers. Allen writes in her article for BBC’s Panorama that she and her crew were asked to leave after following a group of workers home. She and her crew returned later to talk with the workers and saw camp conditions that included raw sewage all over the camp and no water supply in one of the toilet blocks.

As the government controls information about the United Arab Emirates poverty rate. and the exploitation of foreign workers, those workers themselves don’t tell the families back home how things really are.

Gloria Diaz
Photo: Flickr

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Gloria Diaz

Gloria lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her interests include writing, photography, making jewelry, repurposing things. She's an artist and if she can’t create, she's not happy.

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