August 4, 2010

(Fill in the Blank) Need not Apply

In the US, while we still have pay disparities between men and women and, I'm certain, between people of different races, it is nothing compared to what goes on here in the UAE.

It is not unusual for someone to advertise a job and say "Indians only" or Filipinos, for that matter. And your nationality is the key to your pay. If you are from the west -- Europe, North America, Australia -- you can command a salary far higher than someone with similar experience and education.

Salaries here at the paper run the gamut. And there are definite rumors that those journalists from the sub-continent are not paid as well as those from Great Britain for doing equal work. A colleague's wife is a naturalized American citizen from Russia. She was applying for a job, haggling at the point of salary. The manager, a Singaporean, was unwilling to pay her more than he, himself, made. And he told her he could get a Russian cheaper. She stubbornly told him that she was American, not Russian. It's a curious thing: citizenship determining salary.

This plays out in all fields. Filipina maids can earn more than Indian maids. Families are particular about which nationalities they have in their home. There is no great equalizer here -- everyone speaks English, those who are educated are often well-educated. I suspect at some point, skin color comes into play, too. But with the nationality looming large, it's hard to see.

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