Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Guardian gives lessons on labor exploitation
The Emirates gets Nike-ed, but squeezing nannies is praised

No no's: 'One of the world's largest construction booms is feeding off impoverished immigrant workers in Dubai, but they're treated as less than human,' said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. A recent report by the group painted a deeply disturbing picture of immigrant lives in the UAE. It claimed that bleak living conditions, combined with long working hours and unacceptably low pay, had led to rising suicide rates among foreign workers in Dubai. In 2005, 80 Indian residents took their lives, up from 67 in 2004. In addition, an estimated 880 foreign workers died in accidents on UAE construction sites.

How to's: If you have two pre-school children (as I once did), it's often cheaper to employ one person in your home than pay for two places in the local nursery. . . . And despite reports of the modern nanny demanding City banker incomes, Newton's experience is that salaries have settled. "The influx of labour from the new European countries has made a difference," he says. "They may not be UK-qualified, but they fulfil the upmarket au pair role. It has capped the wages nannies are demanding, making them slightly more reasonable." . . . It's cheaper still if you share that nanny with friends or a neighbour, as is increasingly happening. An estimated 65% of nannies are now looking after children from more than one family. The internet has made it far easier to chum up. . . . I didn't only have to worry about not having posit on my suit but also having three kids all brushed and washed by 7.30am. With a nanny, your kids can work to their timetable, not yours. The delight of being able to hand them over first thing, still cornflake-encrusted and in their pyjamas, is immeasurable for all concerned. . . . Nannies, too, do far more than childcare. If you are running out of washing powder, you can't ask the nursery assistant to pick up a packet on the way back from the park.

As Atlantic Blog puts it there's "nothing like climbing the career ladder on the back of some poor Eastern European woman."

Atlantic Blog's point is that British families employing nannies from Eastern Europe are offering those women a better life. Same with the Emirates: it offers workers a better life. And so does Nike.

Does the reality of working conditions always match the sales pitch? No, and some workers are deceived. But most low-skilled workers coming to the Emirates know to heavily discount want they are told. They may be lied to, but mostly they are not deceived.

No doubt we could find many nannies in the UK who didn't exactly bargain for all the duties and all the hours they are given once they arrive.

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