x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Financial planning, a labourers' lifeline

A programme that educates expatriate workers about managing their finances will help prevent suicides.

The UAE can be a daunting place for expatriate workers, men and women far from home with families that are dependent on wages earned here. When the finances don't add up, the pressures put on some workers can be unbearable. To the desperate, suicide sometimes seems the only way out.

Avoiding this tragic cycle requires better financial planning and stress management. Which is why a new programme, as reported by The National last week, is both welcome and overdue.

A growing number of Indian workers in Dubai, many with financial, legal and psychological problems, are benefiting from the initiative, called Mission Zero Suicide. The service, coordinated by UAE Exchange, offers blue-collar workers advice on avoiding the dangerous cycle of debt. In its first six months it targeted about 4,800 workers in nearly 400 companies.

Among the advice the mission promotes: speak honestly with families about finances. The rise of suicides among struggling labourers can often be traced to the pressure placed on those toiling here by family members at home. So far this year, 91 Indians - an average of two a week - have killed themselves in the Emirates, according to the Indian Embassy. In 2008, the rate was nearly double that.

UAE Exchange's campaign will surely save lives. Educating workers on how to avoid credit card and loan traps, or not paying too much to recruiting companies, will help people better manage savings and, in turn, bring expectations down to Earth. Workers inside the country are also sometimes unaware of their rights. Campaigns like these are important in that they reach people before they might feel trapped.

Many people come to the UAE hoping to earn enough money to support many mouths at home. Others see a first job as a gateway, and believe they will find a better job once they arrive. In both cases, it's important that workers of all income levels do not spend beyond their means. For many in the UAE, debt can be unforgiving.

UAE Exchange should be lauded for its efforts to reduce rates of suicide linked to money woes. We hope its just the first of many programmes like it.