South Asian expats save in UAE and spend at home
ABU DHABI // The purchasing power of the dirham in South Asian countries is a major factor in attracting expatriates.
Dh1 buys only one cup of tea in many cafes, but three in Pakistan or Nepal and nearly four cups in India.
The dirham is worth about 17 Indian rupees, 27 Nepalese rupees and 28 Pakistani rupees.
“Living costs are also very high back home but the attractive conversion rates buys us more back home,” said Rajab Ali Khan, a mason from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan who earns Dh900 a month.
He said a a cup of tea cost 10 rupees in Pakistan, a samosa costs 5 rupees compared to between Dh1 and Dh2 here, and a plate of chicken biryani cost 100 Pakistani rupees compared to about Dh14.
In Pakistan, workers can buy almost six pieces of tandoori roti oven bread for Dh1, while in the UAE it costs Dh1 a piece.
“The more we save here, the better and larger amount of commodities we can buy back home,” said Mr Khan, who lives in Saadiyat Accommodation Village.
He said food prices varied depending on their quality and country of origin.
Another Pakistani resident, Mohammed Arshad, from Punjab, said a 1.5 litre bottle of water cost 50 rupees in Pakistan and Dh2 here.
“Saving in the UAE and spending in Pakistan is very beneficial,” he said.
Prem Shankar, a North Indian laundry worker in Abu Dhabi who has lived in the UAE for 32 years, said the UAE and other Arabian Gulf countries were a preferred destination for work because of attractive currency exchange rates and peaceful living.
The dirham has great purchasing power in Nepal as well. “Currently a dirham means a lot to us, which helps support our families back home,” said Nepalese expatriate Khatri Chetri, 38, who earns Dh3,000 a month.
Indian Abdus Salam, operations manager at Al Badar Exchange, said hardly any workers could earn 17,000 rupees a month in India, but in the UAE most were paid more than Dh1,000.
Workers who lived here and saved regularly were always better off than those at home, he said.
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The UAE has signed up to nine International Labour Organisation conventions to protect workers’ rights, and in 2006 was the first country in the region to enact a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law. These conventions spurred the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) to improve the quality of life for 7,000 employees living in workers villages on Saadiyat island. While most workers say they are satisfied with life in Saadiyat Accommodation Village, many have voiced concern about the poor taste of the food. Despite criticism, the purchasing power of the dirham in Southest Asian countries remains a major factor in attracting expatriates to the UAE. Similarly, concerns over passport retention have decreased as the practice has become less common in the UAE.
Updated: March 23, 2015 04:00 AM