Ever wondered how it would feel to be underprivileged in the city of dreams!? Dubai, popularly known as the sea of opportunities, has not always been the same for every expat. With the pandemic and strict curfews Dubai did not seem like the heaven described to at least a few people. Covid - 19 brought a global pause on every activity, and this has dramatically affected the clothiers in Dubai city. Production went down, lack of orders, inconsiderate employers and situations back in their country have pushed them into a total state of disappointment.
Impacts of Covid - 19 on Small Scale Employees
During the pandemic, especially since March 2020 the expatriate employees in the Dubai labor force have been in a constant turmoil. With up to 40% salary cut – offs, and lack of opportunities to work several people have left the country. These laborers had the expectations of building a better living standard for themselves and their families when they landed in Dubai, the world of dreams. However, huge disappointment is what they are returning to their families with.
From March 2020, Dubai witnessed a surge in the number of covid cases. This led to the government implementing heavy restrictions on the movement of residents throughout the country. With curfews in place, the residents found it hard to experience the adventures and celebrate life in Dubai. The pandemic did play a huge role in the life of residents with a total shift in attitudes and behaviors regarding social events and gatherings.
The pandemic and lack of job opportunities have only added to their struggles. The laborers of the textile industry in Dubai, specifically tailors and small – scale workers are facing a difficult position since the year 2020. With the pandemic striking the UAE, many people losing their jobs and returning to their families, the spending habit got vastly reduced.
Residents cut down their additional expenses of clothes and luxury to save more money and return to their country at the earliest. The constant fear of covid – 19 have left residents to not celebrate festivals like the usual. These have dramatically affected the orders that the small - scale tailors received, leaving them with no money for their daily expenses.
Here a tailor from a small textile shop speaks about her psychological issues that have increased since the pandemic. My first and foremost question to her was how worse the pandemic had affected her to which she replied that their production levels went down, and 40% salary cut – offs, life in Dubai became difficult. To survive a day, save the money and send it back to her family in India; she finds it difficult. This has increased the existing gap in her marital life. With her husband’s ignorance and lack of emotional support she finds it difficult to continue working away from home.
One of the major issues expats face is that they cannot meet their family often, when enquired about how she felt about that she responded that staying away from her children did become a huge concern for her. Though supporting her family was her priority, she came to Dubai in the hope of meeting her children yearly once. But after landing here and with a pandemic in place and the lack of income has given her no option but to stay in Dubai for a while. With tears in her eyes, she mentioned that it had been three years since she met her children. This evidently proved the emotional turmoil she was going through.
When asked about how her employer ensures employee wellbeing she mentioned that there is lack of consideration from the employer and the trouble she has to face for not taking up more work from the customers. Later on being blamed in front of customers for not returning timely orders.
These dreadful situations and constant emotional breakdowns have affected her skills and talent. The festival of Onam that had happened in the month of August gave them the hope of orders, however with an opportunity that came in hand after a long time, there came immense pressure from the customers. The owner forced them to take in every order that came. But this resulted in a total disaster.
With a pool of orders and under resourced employees, she found it difficult to deliver the orders on time. According to her, the season of happiness, Onam, became a time that made her feel devastated and emotionally exhausted. She pointed out that she felt angry at herself and couldn’t do the best with the orders that were given to her.
Mostly her solution to all the obstacles life throws at her is to tolerate them and move on. Having asked how she deals with this kind of mental pressure, the answer seemed simple to her, building a home back in India for her children is what she came for in Dubai and she is ready to go through any situation to make it happen.
Having thoroughly understood the situation that laborers like her go through, it is important to educate customers, that is us, on how we can make it better for the fellow humans around us. Few measures are to speak politely to everyone, understand that each of us are battling our own problems and being kind is not gonna cost us anything. Secondly, try to give orders to small - scale workers beforehand and not towards the end for a celebration, this gives them ample time to process and deliver the order. Lastly, try not to cut the amount paid to them because of small errors as that money would be taken by the owner from their salary.
In a Nutshell
Dubai, popularly known for its bling, has not always provided its inhabitants with whatever they want, like the clothier here many out there are struggling to survive and save money for the future. These conditions with the pandemic have worsened their situation, in addition the fast - fashion cheaply available clothes on Shein and other brands have affected their production significantly. In my opinion, it is high time that the employers speak to their employees and ensure their psychological wellbeing at their workspace. Factors like staying alone and staying away from family, the liabilities they have, the risk of covid - 19 and the lack of support from family affects these employees significantly.
Most expat employees face the issue of being misunderstood by their families when they are unable to send money from Dubai, they naturally tend to believe that the money received is used for enjoying the Dubai life, while most people face issues of salary cut - offs and not being able to receive the money on time.
With fast fashion cheaper clothes gaining popularity, Indian expats have also moved to purchasing them rather than going on a long journey of getting the materials and giving it for stitching. The above reasons have put many laborers on the verge of depression as these have resulted in them being on a psychological rollercoaster. This proves why it is important to be mindful of our words when we speak to others, and also take their situations into consideration when we criticize them. Lastly, it is crucial to ensure that we support each other the way we can. This can be as small as giving some time to speak to the people you know who are facing psychological turmoil over sharing a meal.