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If you have ever spent time in the nouveau riche The Gulf you would have noticed all of the food & beverage, security guards, taxi drivers, cleaners and more are from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines & parts of Anglophone Africa. Why may you wonder? The indigenous locals tend to be rather wealthy and would not do such jobs so workers from mostly Asia happily snap up such jobs.

The answer of course starts where they are from. The family sizes are large, 4-9 siblings are not uncommon. Most of the workers come from rural villages where jobs are scarce or poorly paid. Overpopulation plays a big part: India has 1.3 billion people, and The Philippines has at least 100 million people. Insane corruption/cronyism/nepotism comes into play where you may need contacts or money to “buy” a job. Having travelled to many 3rd world places and re-visiting them, I do not see them improving quickly - corruption is a cancer. Lastly is obvious gender and age discrimination which may exist in the United Kingdom, but it is seldomly shown on job ads.

Let’s look at the last reason above. I took the below photo on a recent trip to East Luzon, Philippines and I spotted a similar ad on a shop in North Luzon (Vigan to be precise). It seems if you are 29 years and one day old you suddenly become stupid! Many people did not ever finish high school let alone college or university. Many jobs require a high school or college diploma to work as a cashier in a petrol station. Clearly such a job does not require such education. This means if you are 30 or 40 plus in The Philippines it is tough to get a job and many just go abroad.

On to pay in The Philippines and the below was taken from government websites or media outlets:
  • National Capital Region: 610 PHP or £8.70/day
  • Region Nine: 381 PHP or £5.44/day
  • General Household Workers: 6,500 PHP or £92/month
Some of you may be thinking, well costs are lower in such countries, and you are partly right. Oddly, some vegetables such as onions and carrots are often double the price of what we pay in Tesco or Morrisons. Imagine having four kids and a spouse who barely works, and surviving on the above.

Let’s see what the “Martinez’s” family life is like to help you understand why they go abroad to work and even leave their whole family behind. Mother “Martinez” is married, is 36 years old and father is 40 years old with four children from one to eight years old. They live 1.5hrs south of Manila in a small village. Since father “Martinez” is forty years old, he struggles to find a job locally due to obvious age discrimination. Mother “Martinez” runs a little shop outside of their tiny home and cooks some pastry items to sell for extra cash.

Their property is comprised of a single tiny bedroom, small kitchen, tiny bathroom and tiny dining room/shop back end. They are lucky to have running water which is not ultra-common in The Philippines. Since life is hard, mother “Martinez” is actively working on a job application in North Cyprus where the salary will be $800/month with free accommodation. You may think this sounds ok, however mother “Martinez” will go alone and leave the family behind for a minimum of one year till she raises the cash for flights to bring the rest of the family over. Imagine the one-year-old baby being “motherless” for one year and the father managing four kids, and a shop solo for one year?

Now on to the “Cortez” family. Mother “Cortez” is a single mother with one son only and single mothers with non-existent fathers is fairly common in The Philippines. “Bobby” the son was born in a province eleven years ago and two years after his birth, the mother left to work in The Gulf. During the last nine years the mother missed her mother’s funeral and the son has been raised by the late grandmother and now the sister of “Bobby’s” mother. Yes, nine years without seeing her son which is heart-breaking. Recently the mother has shifted to Canada to work as a cashier in a coffee shop and hopes to sponsor her son in time to move to Canada to be re-united and live together permanently.

Myself and my wife visited “Bobby” in December 2023 in the very North of Luzon. He lives in a larger house than the “Martinez’s” with a few dogs/cats, three cows and tobacco crop. Unlike the above family this house does not have running water and daily water is taken from a well and transferred to a large water bucket. Toilets are flushed and hands are washed manually. Presently the mother’s sister and brother-in-law raise “Bobby”. It seems wrong that my wife and I visited him with gifts, yet the mother is many thousands of miles away in North America.

It is not something we in the West can comprehend but since we are not from their backgrounds, we will never understand it. Needs must! The mother or father is working abroad just so their children can eat and have a basic education. If the parents are lucky, they may visit once every three years to see their families. Others go for longer periods without seeing their children or spouses.

$800 a month is a high salary and the treatment of foreign workers in North Cyprus is not too bad. Jump to The Gulf and the salaries are more like £200-£400/month, and the treatment of workers in nouveau riche The Gulf is vastly different (way worse). Migrant workers lives in The Gulfs are often very frugal so they can send 50-75% of their earnings back home. So, the next time you are served by a migrant worker in The Gulf, do think of the reasons they are there and try to be nice to them. Workers in The Gulf are exploited by the indigenous population as well as gangmasters from the origin countries. Many workers pay agencies thousands of pounds for a job which pays laughable wages.