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Home truth: Most delivery men work for 12 hours a day

27 Jun 2013
Khaleej Times
The lure of a better life, compared to what they have back home, is what draws most expatriates to the UAE. Take Bangladeshi delivery boy, Atif, (name changed) for example.

Before coming to the UAE, his knowledge of the country came from magazine and newspaper articles in his hometown that advertised the country as a line of endless skyscrapers, massive shopping malls, fast cars, and luxurious homes. However, unfortunately for Atif, these structures still remain a distant dream. “I have been living here for two-and-a-half years. I haven’t seen the country beyond the four blocks that I deliver groceries to,” he said.

The 22-year-old supports his entire family back home. He curiously asks: “Is Dubai a big city? Like how they show it the pictures and on TV?” His only visit to Dubai was when he visited his sick brother in Deira. “I went in a cab and I returned in the same car. I saw Ittihad road and the Fish Roundabout in Deira,” he said.

Most small groceries and supermarkets in Sharjah provide home delivery service and each retail outlet employs between two and 10 delivery boys depending on the size of the outlet. Like Atif, several young men come from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to work as delivery boys in retail outlets and restaurants. And most of them don’t see the city beyond their neighbourhood where they deliver goods to. Since most of them support their families back home, the boys have very little left aside for ‘entertainment’ or ‘sight seeing’.

However, Atif (name changed) was not under any kind of illusions when he left his hometown in Sylhet to come work in UAE. “I knew life here was going to be tough. But I was prepared for the hard work. My family needed the money,” he said.

An eighth standard pass, Atif now works as a delivery boy in a grocery store in Al Qasimia, Sharjah.

“My family used to run a shop in Sylhet. After my father passed away, I had to sell the shop to make ends meet, after which I decided to come here,” said Atif.  He sold his family-owned store for 1,80,000 Bangladeshi Taka (roughly Dh8,490). “I had to spend about Dh14, 800 for my coming here. I earn a salary of Dh800 per month. On paper, my salary is Dh1,300, but Dh500 is deducted as housing and food allowances. I send Dh600 to Sylhet every month and keep Dh200 to myself,” he said. The labour supplier who bought Atif to the UAE, however, promised him a day off on Fridays, but it has never worked out. “We work on Eid and other national holidays, as well,” said Atif.

Atif said that despite the long work hours and lack of days off, his owner is kind, and would not want to cause him any trouble.

Aziz, a delivery boy in Al Wadha said: “I haven’t had a single day off since the time I started working at the grocery. I work 12 hours a day, inclusive of a half an hour lunch break in between. See, I have no complaints. The work is easy and I have to deliver to only about three buildings in the area. My owner is kind and some days are busier than the others.”

Aziz however regrets not having pursued a proper education. “I should have studied a little more. Back in India I wasted a lot of time and didn’t purse my education. I can’t complain now. Even though the job is not what I had in mind, it’s the best under the circumstances,” he said.

After sending their earnings home, the boys are left with a little over Dh200 for themselves. “There is not much you can do for entertainment with Dh200. We make friends and most of the delivery boys are in the same boat,” said Indian national Khader, another delivery boy in Abu Shagara.

Supermarket owners do not charge customers for the service offered by these delivery boys. “Many of them get tipped. During summers some people tip the boys about Dh10 to 20, depending on the distance they have come. Even a tip of Dh1 means a lot to these boys,” said Mohd Salim, owner of a grocery store in Al Wadha Street. “For small groceries like ours we cannot afford to hire more than two boys for deliveries. And if one goes on leave, it becomes difficult for the other,” said Salim.

Khader, who hails from Kerala said: “I have been in this job for five months now. Not a single day off, but the work has definitely gotten harder since the summer has begun.”

Most of these boys however do hope for something bigger. “If I get something better, I will take the jump,” said Atif.
Last Update:: 6/27/2013