The Gulf Dream seems to be almost over now as the economic downturn and lower oil prices impact the Gulf countries on a large scale…
Recent statistics suggest that the number of Indians heading to the six Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE – has dropped considerably.
Emigration clearances granted to people seeking employment in the Gulf has dropped by 21 per cent in an 11-month period to November 2018. This figure looks even worse when compared with the peak period in 2014, sliding 62% to November 2018.
Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia has fallen from its top ranking as the most attractive work destination for Indians. It just reflects the changing times in the Gulf as the slowing economy begins to take effect in the region. The restlessness among the local population to get jobs has forced these countries to replace expatriate workers with their own population.
This has led to many Gulf States making living conditions tougher for Asian expatriates so that they leave on their own accord. Taxes have been introduced in many Gulf States and prices of utilities like water and electricity have been raised to make it harder on these expats.
Many workers from Asian countries face problems, particularly in lowly-paid jobs. They are often overworked, lack basic facilities like a proper shelter, no food and are often abused and deprived of human rights.
India’s approach towards these workers have often been piecemeal and tackled only on individual basis.
Though many labour reforms have been introduced in the Gulf, only a few can avail of it. For example many rogue bosses take away the passports of workers and many times set them loose on the free market without giving them back their documents.
However, the burgeoning middle-class in India and far more attractive salaries in India have renewed hopes of many expats that they can get better conditions at home.
“I have sent my family back recently and I am planning my exit too. It is getting far too expensive to survive in the Gulf now,” says John Varghese, who has been living in Bahrain for the last 15 years.
“The introduction of VAT and the phased increase in electricity prices have made a huge hole in my pocket. With high rent and soaring food prices, I can’t makes ends meet.
“Keeping my family here meant I end up borrowing from friends. So I sent them back. I too will go now. At least, I managed to save a bit during the good times and built a home in Kerala,” he added.
“I have been in the UAE for 20 years now. But now I feel that it is time to move back to Pune. I am enjoying the stay in the UAE but of late it is getting worse,” says Geeta Gadgil.
“I have built a small circle of friends here and the lifestyle is also excellent. I will miss all that. But one has to move on when the time comes and we are doing just that.
“The fact that I will be back in Pune for good also excites me. Being a first-class citizen in your own city is really something to look forward to,” she added.
Mahendra Manwani concurs with Geeta. “I dreamt big when I went to the Gulf. Yes, I could afford to buy many things, travel by plane everywhere, and sometimes live like a lord.
“But what is the point when you end up working long hours, face racial abuse from employers, and are treated like dirt. We bear it because we want to fulfil that dream.
“But the price you pay for the dream is not worth it. We must awaken to the realities of the world around us.
“The dream is finally over not only for me but for many others. We must move on,” Manwani adds.