Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

UAE over 60 visas: Indian driver desperate to continue working to save for future

The decision to allow domestic workers to work over 60 sparks hope of a broader visa change

Sardara has put his four children through school and college and paid for their marriages. The 59-year-old is among the many expats who want to work on past 60 and save for their own retirement. Pawan Singh / The National
Sardara has put his four children through school and college and paid for their marriages. The 59-year-old is among the many expats who want to work on past 60 and save for their own retirement. Pawan Singh / The National

When he turns 60 in April, Sardara Singh hopes to begin saving money for himself for the first time in his life.

The grandfather and driver has sent all his earnings to his family in India for the past 25 years. His dream is to save up to buy his first car.

And when he does retire, with his wife by his side, he hopes to travel by road on pilgrimages to temples and gurdwaras across India.

I spent my salary on college for my children and on their weddings. I need to start earning again so I can look after myself and my wife

Sardara Singh

Expatriates are expected to retire and leave the country when they reach 60, often after decades in the Emirates.

They can work until 65 with approval from the Ministry of Labour, but employers must apply for annual extensions of their contracts.

This week, the UAE government said it would allow domestic workers to stay in the country after 60.

Long-standing residents in other labour categories, like Mr Singh, hope they will also be able to extend their stay.

“It will be good if I can continue to work for a few more years because I don’t have any money saved,” said Mr Singh, who first worked in a Sharjah factory as a steel fitter when he came to the UAE in 1994.

He now drives a pickup truck to transport glass and aluminium materials to work sites. He also drives a bus taking labourers to factories across the country.

“I spent my salary on college for my children and on their weddings,” he said.

“I need to start earning again so I can look after myself and my wife.”

Construction workers and other labourers usually earn salaries ranging from Dh800 to Dh2,000 a month. They send home most of their wages to pay for loans and expenses, given most labour companies provide accommodation. Despite working overseas for most of their life, they rarely save for retirement.

A reader hails the new contract that will guarantee the rights of domestic workers. Nicole Hill / The National
Many domestic workers look after more than one generation of a family. Nicole Hill / The National

Mr Singh’s salary has covered the school and college education of three daughters and a son, along with their marriage expenses.

The certainty of monthly pay cheques helped him add floor tiles and build a bathroom to spruce up his small family home in Binpalke village.

Mr Singh chose the UAE over the family farm where his brothers grow rice, wheat, sugar cane and potatoes because he did not want his life tied to an unreliable annual harvest.

“How could I have done anything for my family if I relied on the farm? I have got everything I wanted for my family by working here,” he said

To save money, he rarely leaves his accommodation in Sharjah on Fridays – his one day off – but he enjoys the city.

“I have stayed so long because no one bothers you. I work, I earn money, I live my life,” he said.

“Every time I went home I wanted to spend time with the family so there was no time or money to travel anywhere else.

“My dream is to drive my own car and with my wife visit relatives and see temples and gurdwaras in the country. That is my small dream.

“Maybe I can do this if I work more in the UAE.”

Updated: November 28, 2019 10:39 PM

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