It seems like this is the age of squandering, a time when people are spending their money as if they're handing out free candy. Why? Because technology has made it easy and quick to do so.
That's all fine and dandy when you're the only human you're taking care of. However, when adding someone else to the equation, whether it's a child, spouse, domestic worker, or even a pet, things change. Needs take precedence over wants and luxuries.
What if you could barely afford your own needs? Would you take on the care of another human being if you had the choice? Should people even be allowed to do so?
In January, the UAE issued a new policy with regards to hiring and sponsoring full-time domestic workers. The policy states that residents of the UAE hoping to sponsor a domestic worker must now have a minimum household income of 25,000 dirhams ($6,800). The prior 6,000-dirham ($1,630) minimum was raised so alarmingly that it caused some shock and disappointment among residents.
Although the disappointment is understandable from certain angles, it remains misplaced. How can people be so dismayed about a country trying to ensure, if nothing else, the financial rights of the domestic workers residing within its borders? Imagine, in the best of scenarios, having to work 12 hours a day and not only getting paid the bare minimum but much of the time having to deal with not getting paid at all.
Bear in mind this is not an issue that solely occurs in the UAE, GCC, or even throughout the Middle East, it's as international as the nationalities of those who pick up housekeeping as a job.
Some Gulf countries, such as the UAE and Kuwait, are attempting to ensure that house workers are assured protection of their physical, mental, and emotional states, as well as their legal rights.
Unfortunately, not the entirety of the Middle East nor the rest of the world is in on these rectifying actions. In fact, poverty and desperation of people in underdeveloped countries have given way to more trafficking and forced labor. Although we'd all like to believe that slavery was abolished in the 19th century, modern-day slavery is taking place right under our noses.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), excluding child domestic laborers, there are at least 67 million domestic workers worldwide - in both developed and developing countries - over the age of 15, including housekeepers, drivers, gardeners, caretakers, and more. Eighty percent are females.
These domestic workers frequently end up getting the charred end of the stick, oftentimes having to work without any clear guidelines or contracts. Many of them are unregistered, which excludes them from labor laws.
"At present, domestic workers often face very low wages, excessively long hours, have no guaranteed weekly day of rest and at times are vulnerable to physical, mental and sexual abuse or restrictions on freedom of movement," ILO's report states.
One major thing considered to be part of modern-day slavery is the kafala (sponsorship) system. People across the globe are running campaigns in an attempt to end this system that's said to be taking advantage of domestic workers.
Why is the kafala system so detested?
The kafala system emerged in countries located in West Asia during the 1950s. Its main purpose was to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers in those countries.
This system still exists in different forms in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. According to a policy brief titled "Reform of the Kafala (Sponsorship) System" and published by the ILO, the system's objective in these countries was to "provide temporary, rotating labor that could be rapidly brought into the country in economic boom and expelled during less affluent periods."
However, it now legally binds migrant domestic workers to their employers. Rights groups described it as "modern-day slavery," a system that denies workers basic rights and subjects many of them to abuse and torture. Under it, domestic workers are often treated like slaves, denied their most basic rights (such as the ability to travel or change jobs), and subjected to abuse and racism. Some workers are even "sold" online.
When a mere 10 percent of domestic workers around the world have equal protection in labor law compared with other workers, you know something is being done wrong.
A report titled "Time To Care: Unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis" - published by Oxfam in January - estimated that the 3.4 million domestic workers in forced labor worldwide are "being robbed" of $8 billion every year as their employers often deprive them of the money they earned.
Imagine having a third of your paycheck be ripped out of your hands for no absolute reason other than greed. How would that make you feel, knowing how hard you worked to earn this money? Now picture yourself rarely ever getting paid and yet having to do the exact amount of work, if not more.
What if your employer told you they don't feel like paying you for a few months not because they don't have money but because they don't want to? You would probably quit on the spot. Unfortunately for domestic workers, they rarely have a choice in the matter; quitting is usually out of the question.
Instead of helping these people find work and support themselves, their homes, and communities, or simply donating to aid underdeveloped countries find their way, sponsors and "employers" are abusing domestic workers and treating them as if they were beneath them.
Domestic workers are not beneath anyone. In fact, they work harder than most for such tiny pay and rarely ever complain even when they have every right to do so. Treating people who aid you daily and relieve you of duties that would otherwise floor you with exhaustion is the least a person can do.
"To a large extent, it is thanks to the labor of domestic workers that other women have succeeded in entering the paid labor market in increasingly larger proportions and in breaking the glass ceiling," stated the ILO.
Paying domestic workers a bit more and giving them their rights shouldn't be the dream. It should be the reality.