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Eastern Promises

Zafar Anjum | July 9, 2009
Is it fair to let people exploit immigrant IT workers?

One night I got a strange call. The caller was from India. Someone who knew me had given him my number.

He was a techie from Bangalore, with more than a decade of experience in the IT industry. Unfortunately, he said, he had recently lost his job.

Given the current global recession, I could understand that. I was not surprised.

But the good thing was that he had got an offer in hand, he said with some exultation.

The offer had been made to him by a consultant in Singapore. And thats why he was calling me.

What do you want to know from me? I asked him.

He wanted to know if the remuneration that they were offering him would see him through in Singapore. What were the living costs like?

I dont think the remuneration they are offering me is any good but I really dont have much choice, he said. I have a family to support here.

"How much are they offering you?"

S$1500. Thats about US$1,000.

Thats it?

Thats it.

That was low for a techie with more than 10 years of experience. But this is recession baby, I reminded myself. I thought of Grapes of Wrath.

No other perks?

Accommodation. They said they will provide accommodation.

What kind of accommodation?

I dont know.

You should ask them. Because they might put you in a shared flat, in a dorm.

Maybe. I dont know.

Do you plan to bring your family along?


Any kids?

Yes, one daughter.

She will go to school?

No, she is only one and half years old.

I got the scenario. I thought he was being exploited and he too sensed that. The consultants, perhaps a body shopping company, would trade him at a higher rate, keep the profit margins, and make him slog from company to company.

Is it a new form of the slave trade? Is it fair to let people be exploited by others in this way?

I told him what I thought of the offer which was not very positive. He said he planned to find a better paying job once he had come to Singapore. Sweet revenge, huh?

I told him that it was recession time and things were not as rosy in Singapore as he thought.

But even before I told him what I thought of the offer, I knew that he had made up his mind. His personal circumstances, the allure of Singapore and the human passion of building a life abroad were too much to make him decide otherwise.

Perhaps his next call would come once he had landed in Singapore.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia portal.


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