Workers say move will boost earnings
A new decree forcing companies to pay the cost of housing low-paid employees’ will have a huge impact on their salaries and allow them to send more money home to their families, they say.
7DAYS spoke to a number of workers along with a top diplomat who said the move will mean a salary boost of hundreds of dirhams per month for many of the lowest paid in society.
The move affects those earning Dhs2,000 or less a month in companies with more than 50 employees.
The decree, announced by Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, comes into effect from December and follows a study into living conditions in the country.
Liaqat Khan, 36, a Pakistani construction worker in Abu Dhabi who earns Dhs1,700 per month said the decree meant he will have more money to send back home.
“I can send the extra Dhs300 to my family, which will cover my son’s school fees for a couple of months - this is a very big thing for me,”he told 7DAYS. “I will be very happy when I get free accommodation, because currently I pay Dhs300 every month to stay in a room with five other people.”
Khan said low-paid workers like himself live in constant fear of rent hikes, which can effectively wipe out the remittances that keeps their families fed and housed.
“I keep worrying I may have to move to a By Mahak Mannan cheaper place if my house owner demands more money,” he said.
“But when my company houses me, I will not have to worry about that any more.” Bangladeshi office boy Mohammed Arif, 38, works in a consultancy firm in the capital by day and cleans villas and apartments by night to support his family.
He said the change will allow him to ease his workload and send hundreds more home to his family.
Arif ( right) said: “Currently I earn Dhs1,900, out of which Dhs300 goes in rent and approximately Dhs400 on food and daily expenses. “I send the rest back home. “I try to do as many odd jobs as possible after hours to make more money, as a cleaner or help people moving houses.
“Rent-free accommodation would give me almost a month’s pay from cleaning one house.”
Indian Ambassador to the UAE TP Seetharam said the new decree has far reaching implications for the lowest paid.
He told 7DAYS that, at present, even the cost of the cheapest bed space leaves many with little cash to live on.
“Rents are very high in this part of the world, even to get a bed space, a person has to pay large amounts, this law will help eliminate that cost,” said Seetharam.
Inder Bhagnani, founder of the Feed A Labour initiative, which distributes food to hundreds of labourers each week, added: “A mere Dhs100 or Dhs200 off rent will make a drastic change in their lives.
“They can use it to call back home, buy more food or provide for the family.
“However, the majority of workers who earn below Dhs1,000 have accommodation, so it might not make a difference to them.”