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The mighty migrant

May 13,2018 - Last updated at May 13,2018

A few weeks ago, we had a small fire at home. Fortunately, no one was hurt and there was only some damage to the kitchen. First and foremost, I salute the Civil Defence Department for their professionalism and the solicitousness with which they treated us.

That said, when we came to repair the damage, all but two of the repairmen who were sent to do the work were non-Jordanian. It is strange given Jordan’s chronically high unemployment, that almost all labour is expatriate.

I hasten to clarify that I am the last person to attack the presence of expat labourers. I disagree fundamentally with people like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who claims that “The best migrant is the migrant who does not come”. Quite the opposite, I feel grateful for the presence of these tradesmen, in this case Egyptians, who restored our house to a habitable state.

Still, it is a fact that Arab expats are treated with disdain in Arab countries. There is rarely any social mingling with locals, and hardly ever any intermarriage with them. And yet, as we manifest this xenophobia to our fellow Arabs, we continue to eulogise Arab unity, oblivious, if at all aware, of the dichotomy in our discourse. 

That said, what is even more remarkable is the change in the work ethic of immigrants. For instance, in Gulf countries, Jordanians are considered hard working and efficient, while at home, young men who were engaged as day labourers in an initiative to reduce unemployment, actually outsourced their jobs and gave away the little money that they were paid, keeping only enough to buy a pack of cigarettes and a few cups of tea a day.

Similarly, an Egyptian friend of mine was surprised when he heard me praise Egyptian workers in Jordan because they work hard, pray hard, save hard and send most of their income to their families. He said, half-jokingly: “Whatever you do to them over there, please come and do it here to make them behave like this in Egypt.”

This is not unique to the Middle East. A study in the UK in 2007 found that immigrant workers, mainly from central and eastern Europe, worked harder and were three times less likely to be absent from work than native workers. Remarkably, the same study found that this immigrant’s ethic lasts only for two years, after which immigrant workers become as complacent as locals.

This is not surprising. Immigrants are risk-takers who chase opportunities. They travel to fill a void, and they bear the hardship of sleeping on the ground to provide a home for their families. 

Immigrants have initiative, drive and persistence, which are the prerequisites of success. This is why I taught my son since he was a toddler that his best friends in the world are Mr and Mrs Verance, and their son Percy Verance (perseverance).  

You see, anyone can dream of success, but what makes a difference is to wake up and work hard at it.

 

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Comments

Well said as usual my friend, and so true.

Kudos to you and all the best,

Roberto

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