Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Construction workers wages

Construction wages fall by 30 percent
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 11:08
According to data from the Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (SCAD), the average wage for construction workers in the capital has dropped by almost a third over the last two years as a result of the global financial crisis.
Data shows that the average hourly wage aggregated across the range of construction site workers fell by AED 5.5 from AED 18.1 to AED 12.6 for the period from April 2008 to April 2010.
Surveyors and steel fixers have been hit the hardest with Surveyors seeing a loss of AED 7 from an average AED 25 to AED 18 per hour, and steel fixers losing AED 6 per hour from an average of AED 16 to AED 10 per hour. The hourly rates for electricians and helpers also fell by AED 4 and AED 3 respectively and semi-skilled labour saw their wages drop from AED 13 to AED 9.5 per hour.
In recent weeks, the Ministry of Labour has been focussing on construction wages and it has introduced new policies to ensure companies pay labourers working on a Friday at least 50 percent above their usual hourly wage or give Friday workers a day off in lieu.

The article above doesn’t give the hourly rate for an unskilled labourer, of which of course there are hundreds of thousand. I doubt even that the rates above are fairly applied and that they are actually paid. It is normal for an unskilled labourer to be getting c.600 Dhs (c.£112) per month. So that is maybe c.£0.39 per hour for a 12 hour day, 6 days a week. For three months of the summer they get a 3 hour break in the middle of the day, but even for the other hours of the day, the temperatures will be 45-50C - doing back breaking work.

I also know of cleaners in buildings getting as little as 300 Dhs per month.

This is of course free market capitalism at work. Or slavery. Either way, it’s pretty disgusting.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. But then there's the view from the other side.

    I talk, for example, to the cleaners and security staff in my building, who get Dh500 a month and live in cupboards (literally). And to my hairdresser, who shares a villa with 300 people and gets Dh1,500 a month. They're fromn Nepal, India, Philippines, living away from their families who they see once in two years.

    Why do they stay, I ask, why don't they go home? They all say, without exception, that they're doing so much better than back home. They could go home but they choose to stay.

    The labourers in many Indian cities do the same backbreaking work in similar temperatures for less pay - and they don't get a midday break.

    I've posted on the subject many times - in a guest worker society with most people here temporarily simply to earn money to send home, the wage rates and especially the cost of living in their home countries must come into the equation.

    You can't evaluate the value of the wages here from, say, a UK viewpoint. There a labourer will get around eight pounds an hour, or about Dh250 a day, and he'll probably struggle to get by with the high cost of living in the UK.

    In India, where many of our labourers come from, well over 300 million people live on less than a dollar a day. The people working in the Gulf, for what you say are slave wages, are envied and considered hugely wealthy.

    Of course I'd like to see them paid more, and treated better, but we're payed in in the context of our home countries, and in a temporary guest worker society that has to be an important factor in deciding salaries.