Two years ago, while I was working in Jeddah I met a Saudi businessman probably in his late 40′s. I was assisting his son while on queue at one of our rides for kids and when I stood by the exit gate of the ride, he approached and thanked me and then we had a brief chat.
“How much do you earn here, my friend?” He politely asked.
“Around SR 3,5000 sir” I answered.
“And you are not paying any taxes right? That means all your money is sent home to the Philippines.”
“But still its a measly salary when you compare it to the amount that Americans or British Nationals receive.”
“Of course sir,” I replied “An American engineer will be paid higher than their Filipino or even Saudi counterparts.”
“Yes,” he said.
Then he introduced himself.
“I am a businessman who owns a hotel in one of the tourist areas here in the Western Region. Have you gone to other parts of Saudi Arabia?”
“No sir,” I replied. “The farthest that I’ve been was at the Obhur area.”
Then he chuckled.
“You are fortunate my friend, earning SR 3,500 tax-free and a supervisor, while there are Saudi’s living in poverty.”
“There are poor Saudis?”
“Yes, in the Southern part of the country, imagine that ours is a rich country and yet there are poor Saudis.”
I was thinking, poverty in Saudi Arabia?
The reason why I worked in Saudi Arabia was due to the “supposed poverty” in the Philippines.
Being a major labor importer, my idea of Saudi Arabia was a rich country where nobody wants to work and everybody wants to be pampered. Everybody is racing through the Corniche with their Hummer’s and the presence of Salvatore Ferragamo and Chanel in the malls would mean that they are buying these stuffs.
After that conversation, I asked Zamzam, a Yemeni married to a Saudi man, my staff in the theme park and she confirmed that poverty is indeed present in Saudi Arabia.
She lamented that her SR 2,500 salary was not enough to feed her 2 young girls that’s why she forced her son to work also in the park as an operator earning an additional SR 1,500.
Her husband’s take home pay was around SR 4,000 but even if their salaries were pooled together; it will cover only their monthly expenses.
A Saudi security guard in the park earns around SR 1,500 while our Filipino ride operators were paid SR 1,200. There were GOSI deductions and they were not given free transportation so the cost of coming to work were shouldered by them; while us expats have a bus service daily.
But Zamzam is still lucky because she has a job and her family has a monthly income.
Yesterday, I asked Ghanem (a Saudi staff in his 30′s who is working as a sales associate) his opinion why Saudi women shoplift and he has a simple answer; “Their fathers, guardians or husbands don’t give them money.”
Maybe its true, if their husbands doesn’t have a stable job or works only as a security guard, then how can they shop like other priviledged Saudi women does everyday.
Ghanem was a former border guard and Nader, another Saudi staff, would call the former as “bakheel”, or thrifty.
Ghanem lives in Thoqba, walks daily for work, eats only a SR 1.00 sandwich and tea in the morning and SR 1.00 biscuit and tea in the evening. I don’t know what does he have for lunch.
He said he has a wife and his salary would naturally be spent for his family.
Unlike the other Saudi’s, he only has the basic mobile phone, no car and no fancy gadgets at hand.
One time he asked me how much is my limit at my 2 credit cards, I told him it was around a five digit figure and he said how come the bank would not give him that credit limit?
Poverty exists and I don’t have to go to the Southern part of the country.
I just have to stand by the door of our shop and observe.
There is poverty in education. Mohammad Kanen told me before that education is free but he never studied. Most Saudi youth’s he said, during his time, doesn’t want to study. Nader wanted to learn English that’s why we are teaching him. Ladies sometimes don’t know how to read the prices on the tags.
There is poverty among women. Zamzam, Noura, Ghalia and the other Saudi lady employees at my previous company felt proud that they were earning. There was even a time when a father of one of our lady attendants came to the office and asked if her daughter be given a chair while working. He explained to me that Saudi ladies were not accustomed to working like other women and he was begging if we could allow this until his daughter became adjusted with the working environment. He was old, and he told me that he wanted her daughters to earn, to help in the expenses and to learn how to cope with the real world. I gave in to his request. Like what Ghanem explained, ladies shoplift because they don’t have money. They must earn and be proud of themselves also.
There is poverty among the youth. One can easily differentiate the poor from the rich kids. The rich kids are wearing designer clothes while the poor kids are wearing tattered garments. You can see street hawkers at night in downtown Al Khobar or at the mosques. Perhaps they’ve never gone to school or they came from poor families. Unfortunately, the society has been raising them up to become poor; to have a family and still live in poverty. It is a reflection of the Philippine society as well. Nobody will hire the poor Filipinos in urban Manila because for one, they lack the education; they lack the “required” breeding; and they lack the “required” abilities. There were standards set in the Philippine employment culture that clearly alienates the opportunity for the poor Filipinos. I guess it’s the same here in Saudi Arabia.
Poverty is the root cause of all evils. A hungry man will do anything just to fill an aching belly; and a father will do anything to give his beloved son the medicines that would lengthen his life.
In the Philippines, the answer for poverty and hunger were stealing, prostitution, drug trade and kidnap for ransom. But in here, they have the resources, they have the means, they have the money so they have their answer to these problems.
Thanks to Trad Alasmari who posted the video :
My Salary is 1000 Riyals