Cooks and Drivers and Nannies — Oh My!

Back home I could barely afford the occasional babysitter for ‘date night’ with my hubby. Here in Pakistan, however, I employ a live-in maid, driver, cook, gardener  and night guard — all for the grand total of about $400 US/month. It’s wonderful having these people look after my family and I’ve come to see them as friends, especially our driver who I trust transporting my kids to and from sport & social events.

A few of my Pakistani neighbors have complained I’m over-paying my help, causing their servants to be unhappy. One person from an outrageously huge house even had the nerve  to ask me to reduce my helps’ salaries. It’s clear why laborers prefer to work for foreigners.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. Our first maid stole my wedding band, the cook had an affair with the next maid, the new cook was not dependable, the first cook returned but left soon after, the gardener ran off with my lawn mower  and the night guard sleeps on the job.

Sometimes I feel like the local bank–my driver recently asked for $90 to help cover his child’s school tuition & uniforms, the cook needed $30 for a doctor’s visit & medicine. Then there is the double pay for various holidays. I’m usually happy to help but I’m not sure how involved I want to become in the lives of my house-staff. I’m afraid that they believe I’ve adopted them and their families. Still, the lack of compassion displayed by the neighbors bothers me.

Here’s the way I look it: If I give money to a charity there will, most likely, be some CEO taking home at least 100K. By giving directly to people who work for me it means every cent goes into their pocket. I feel good knowing they are cared for.

I’m fairly new to the overseas life style and would appreciate any advice from other overseas educators on the topic of household help. How involved should I become in their lives? What works for you?

54 Responses to Cooks and Drivers and Nannies — Oh My!

  1. BeFair says:

    While working overseas, I’ve had the pleasure of having a maid. She is wonderful. Because she works hard, I always pay her extra. She cooks, cleans, iron, and go shopping. I was told to pay her $12.50 per day for 8 hours of work. That’s ridiculous. I have to work 3 days and pay her for 5 days, triple the amount per day. I always give extra on holidays and vacations. There is no way in the USA you could get that kind of services for the amount of money we pay overseas. People are people and should be treated with some level of respect, regardless of how they are treated in there home country.

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  2. kitty says:

    Ahhh, the excruciating bourgeois problems of the expat teacher. Our live are just so rough. Be true. Be just. Help those less fortunate improve the qualities of their lives so that after you leave they have more opportunities than before you came. For me that means paying my housekeeper’s rent and helping her open a bank account so that she can save for the future – I figure my employer provides me housing, so that is just and fair. Or give them time and money to enroll in a class – English, cooking, cleaning, secretarial courses for locals are usually very cheap (i.e. $50 for a six-week course to get a certificate allowing making someone eligible for employment as a cleaner at a workplace where labor laws are applied and there is job security). Or help their children achieve literacy and secondary education – read the about the insane impacts these basic education has on those in LEDCs in the UN’s literature on the Millenium Development Goals. But most of all, remember, that if you you are helping others to help themselves, being kind, generous and caring is NEVER a bad thing.

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  3. Expatdaze says:

    My family had been overseas for 14 years. Middle East, South America and off to Asia.

    The domestic helper wages chat always comes up at the table. So many good ideas have been posted here already.

    I have experienced 2 things:

    1. Just because I can pay low wages, does that mean I should pay low wages?

    2. I know that because of my profile (WASP)I am seen as an empty wallet. I think it’s good to remind locals that many of us have debts, mortgages, kids in college, ailing parents etc…sure, we’re blessed, there’s no argument there. However, our nanny asked us for $5,000 for a deposit on a home and seemed rather shocked that we did not have that money at hand.

    That’s my 2 cents

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  4. Cindy says:

    I lived in India for 3 years so I know all about the drama of the maids, cooks, and drivers. You do have to be respectful of the local economy and the going rate of things. To pay your household help so far out of the norm of what your neighbors pay, may cause problems.

    It’s not advisable to get too involved in the lives of the help because you run the risk of being taken advantage of which is what is happening. They are your employees, they are not your friends. You should treat them with kindness, dignity and respect, but don’t cross the line into friendship — it’s not appropriate and will lead to problems and complications.
    It’s no wonder your neighbors are upset, their household help will be complaining or leaving. Respect the local going rates, and you should not be thinking of it as a charity.
    It’s best to start the relationship on a professional basis and maintain that employee/employer relationship the way your neighbors do. But never take advantage, give them a decent wage and good conditions and make sure they have adequate time off and breaks. Then you’ll be the best employer.

    Like

    • Trav45 says:

      But part of local culture IS that ex-pats. a) pay more and b) generally treat their help better. I worked in turkey and Egypt and locals were always astonished at what the foreigners paid their staff. But you couldn’t get anyone to work for you for less. Obviously, cleaners, etc were always trying to break into the expat market, and the cleaners on our campus in turkey actually had a ” maid mafia.” I tried to hire a cleaner from outside the system — paying her the same as one of ten other cleaners I might add– and they ran her off.

      I don’t mind paying 20% more or so. It’s still a bargain. What I do find offensive re expats who tell me I’m “ruining it for them”– it’s one thing for a local to say that, but for an overpaid oil family to say I’m driving the price up for them…give me. Break.

      Like

  5. Allen says:

    Thank you for the laughs. Liberals always believe
    themselves morally superior to others. For example,
    I see bleeding hearts give big tips to taxi drivers in
    Thailand. Unintended consequences, Thai taxi drivers
    will not pick up Thais in the tourist areas because the Thai culture does not tip.
    Keep thinking your actions have no consequences for the locals.

    Like

    • George H. says:

      That’s a fair point and i do agree with you. However, don’t you think there is a difference between paying for a good or service – a one off transaction – and a permanent employment contract?

      Like

    • George H. says:

      Yes how outrageous for those who try to do the right thing to think that!

      Like

  6. farooq says:

    I am an overseas Pakistani. I am living in Pakistan. You are right, you can’t afford helpers / servants in Europe and US.
    Please treat them nicely. Help them where ever possible. if you convert in dollar, this will be nothing. If you really want to help them, why you don’t start paying school fee or cost of books of one of their child. help them when they are sick (medicine is not expansive) help them when where ever you can. you can set a budget like 100 $ or 200 $ which you will spend on helping community. Give them good food and cloth. i can assure you, no body will leave your house as they will not get these facilities while working with local. They may have some shortcomings but don’t complain as they are getting may be 1 or 2 $ per day while in Europe or US you need to pay about 50 $ per day. But by spending little money , you are getting extra ordinary facilities.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for the advice, but I think that the ‘treat them nicely’ should be directed to your compatriots, rather than to us. Please don’t preach to us, who already treat them a lot better and pay them a lot more than the locals would ever dream of doing. Are you trying to tell us to pay them more than you do, because for us ‘it’s nothing’? We are only teachers, but the locals are much wealthier than we could ever dream of being, so maybe it’s ‘nothing’ for them? It’s no wonder that the help that is lucky enough to work for expats think that foreigners are stupid for being so kind to them. But let’s not confuse the servants with the poor: people who work for expats are NOT poor in their culture, but considered rather privileged. The ‘real’ poor, if they are working at all, are obviously working for local employers, for very little money. Who is helping them are organizations from other countries, certainly NOT the local wealthy ones! Of course they consider it ‘foreigner’s’ job to help their own poor countrymen, just like you do, while they are busy exploiting and abusing them.

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  7. Duras says:

    I personally prefer to do everything myself: cook, clean, etc. I live in an apartment, so the owner has a guard there 24 hours, supposedly. It can be nice to have help, but I really like doing things for myself; it keeps me grounded, and I really don’t mind because that’s how I grew up, and that’s what I’m accustomed to.

    I’m the odd-ball at my school, for every other teacher has help. But hey, we all make choices in life, that’s called free will.

    One thing I notice is that sometimes foreigners have this “I feel guilty” syndrome, so many feel obligated to have to “help the economy”. I wish they would take that attitude back to their home country and help those less fortunate in their own countries. Sometimes, foreigners set the help up to fell; if you overpay them, once you leave, they may have to go back to local society, and it’s hard going down once you’ve been up.

    The assumption is that foreigners are wealthy. Maybe in relation to the locals, yes, but I don’t consider myself anywhere near rich. Everybody’s rich in comparison to someone. What I notice about some foreigners overseas, especially the younger ones,is that many are trying to pay off student loans, some may have a mortgage, some are financially providing for others at home, those who desire to return to the states soon are spending loads of money on job hunting, trying to organize relocating back to an expensive country. My point is, many locals (e.g the help) don’t have these huge expenses and probably never will. Just because someone makes a certain salary doesn’t mean that they should have to pay for certain services or even pay extra. it may be a moral thing to some, but not everyone feels that way. You never know a person’s financial situation. We’ve all heard of those six-figure individuals who have massive debt. Plus, don’t we also keep hearing money doesn’t buy happiness.

    Social norms are powerful, but I don’t buy into them unless it’s okay with me,if I feel comfortable with it. I’m a good person, I’m fair, but I don’t like to be told how to spend my hard-earned money. I refuse to do something just because others think I should.

    Furthermore, the parents of the students I teach will make more than I ever will, probably. And they don’t pay higher salaries to the help. I would follow their lead. If you don’t like how they treat the help or couldn’t tolerate that, I wouldn’t want to work for people like them anyway. We are teaching their kids, which is the greatest gift you can give.

    If you really want to give back, go teach in a public school in your respective country. Your service to them will be of a greater importance than the little extra you give to the help staff in your home.

    Like

  8. Maru says:

    Oh Lord, it seems you have created some debate here. My dear colleague, it is true that locals rtry to take advantage of you most of the time.

    Do not over pay the local and do not believe what they tell you everytime they ask you for money cause most of the time it is not true.

    Try to stay away form their privates lives as mush as possible if not you will end up being their local back as you said. Treat them with respect, but always keep an eye on them cause normally these people are not honest most of the time so they steal things or do inapropriate trhings in your house.

    So be alert nd do not let them take advantage of you.

    Best of lucks!

    Like

  9. Jennifer B. says:

    Firstly, I can tell that we’re all nearing the end of the year, as some teachers here have been downright snippy towards each other. I hope most people will skim over Andy and George’s responses, as I did, as they exhibit troll-like behavior to “spur on debate”. They bring nothing to the OP’s request for information or help.

    Speaking of the OP, I think there were many wise comments from others, so hopefully s/he got something out of posting her issue here on the forum.

    I just felt the need to write something about the degenerating comments that were showing up at the beginning, as I haven’t seen this happen often on ISR. If you can’t offer something helpful to say, do us all a favor and keep your snide/pedantic arguments to yourself and stop wasting our time.

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    • George H. says:

      My advice is that you should employ people under fair conditions and pay a decent living wage. You should not pay less than minimum wages and you should not deny employees their basic rights legal rights to sick
      leave, health insurance, privacy and holiday pay.

      That’s all i want to say, sorry if that bores or

      Like

  10. Rebecca says:

    Pay them fairly, and reward them for when they go out of their way to do something extra.

    I think it’s a good idea to find out what locals are paying for services, and pay that at first. You will go through many drivers and maids. When you find one who works honestly and is reliable, I think monetary bonuses are appropriate.

    I do agree that paying far above the going rate will result in being taken advantage of and scammed. I live in a third world middle eastern country, and the poverty is so extreme that it would be difficult for someone to resist taking advantage of a “rich”, clueless foreigner.

    That said, most people here will find a way to make money honestly. Men will stand in the streets outside restaurants and “help” you park your car, keep an eye on it while you’re dining and maybe wipe it down. Those are the people to pay. They may be out of work, but are still trying to be useful and earn something. Women selling boxes of tissues while standing between cars in traffic – yes, pay them more than the tissues are worth.

    I have found it’s better to keep a professional distance when dealing with staff. I am friendly, but I won’t chat or tell them anything about my life. The more they know, the worse it is for you. There are even refrigerators with locks, so maids won’t gossip about what you eat (meats and expensive foods) and develop envious feelings.

    Be fair, pay a little extra from time to time for good work, pay on time, don’t abuse them in any way and they’ll be way ahead than they would be if not working for you.

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  11. George H. says:

    1. Ensure that anybody you employ is paid at least the minimum wage of the country in which you are working and ensure that you comply with local regulations (whether they are always actively enforced or not) for holiday pay and sick leave benefits where applicable.
    2. This will also give you the added benefit of knowing that you are not in breach of your own employment contract and residence visa which no doubt include clauses and conditions which require you to follow local laws and customs. (And thus avoid the risk of summary dismissal for breach of contract)
    3. That your good self and I hereby propose a voluntary charter for international schools, and their personnel, to commit to ensuring that the employment and contract staff, including domestic help, are paid in accordance with the minimum standards.

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  12. Simon says:

    I am the principal of a school in Rawalpindi, twin city of Islamabad for the past two years, also worked in 5 countries in the Middle East. I think I can judge if the salaries of these “house-staff” is fair or not. Remember, 5 people (maid, driver, cook, gardener & night guard) are being paid $400/pm, thus 400×85=34000 Pakistani Rupees, devided by 5 is PR6800 per person per month. NOT a very good salary when you take in consideration that the inflation rate in Pakistan is 13.4%, what can you buy with $80/month? And support a family, that with $2.6/day? Surely living cost is lower, but still….!

    Simon.

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    • George H. says:

      Thanks Simon – and it is clearly below minimum wage, under Pakistani law. Of course there are some in this forum who say that that is okay because the law is not strictly enforced in some countries (most likely because under the adversarial system of the common law, which Pakistan has inherited from the enlightened west, they do not have the financial means to litigate for their rights). But as international teachers on good salaries urely we could do our bit by trying to ensure that those whom we employ are paid at least a minimum wage.

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    • BB says:

      We lived in Pakistan and paid our household help about $750.00 per month at the end of our time there. We treated our cook, bearer, gardener and guards with dignity and respect, paid for some serious medical problems for years and helped financially when children were sick or cousins needed medication. Our staff stayed with us the whole time we were there. We felt that they were a gift and we could not have been better taken care of. (The teacher salaries in Pakistan are substantial — and the cost of living is very low.)

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  13. Sucking on Lemons says:

    We are heading to THAILAND, to a very prestigious school. There is nothing like local knowledge and information from the ‘been there done that’ crowd and I say that in a very polite and respectful way. Hence if anyone has any idiot proof suggestions, directions please elaborate.I must say from having read all the comments prior to my own, it truly is irksome to be ripped off, but the most important issue I have seen is the safety and health transmission concerns with possible diseases. Does one for instance, screen house staff for diseases prior to offer of employment?I do though disagree with the comment about how we are perceived by the parents. Quality schools employ quality teachers. Too, if you are not being treated with respect do something about it, whether that be getting more qualifications or as simple as setting a minimuim standard of behaviour with any and all you deal with. Target quality schools for employment, forget about the rest is certainly one way of enjoying the overseas 3rd country expat experience. Please anyone who has good practical advice about staff, Bangkok etc speak up. Thank you.

    Like

    • BB says:

      We have paid for our household help to have annual physicals (for everyone’s benefit). We had staff with health problems that we took care of both with scheduling and payment of appointments (after all, we have health insurance). Health insurance for staff can also be purchased. We kept a professional relationship and did not ask to be taught the local language, or lead into discussions about culture or families. Our staff kept their valuables locked up as did we. Our cook gave us a monthly accounting of household expenses (his preference). There were occasional tensions among the staff, but we made it clear that our cook was the manager and would solve the problems and make the decisions. We paid each person in cash directly. In the summer only one person stayed to watch the house and animals at a time (they took turns) but they received their monthly wages. It worked out really well…ah, the memories…

      Like

  14. dennis potter says:

    I loved this book based on an expat experience in Thailand of the 70’s (?) and her family’s relations with their live in servant families… I wonder if it seems at all dated by now. check it out, its a fun and realistic first person read;
    Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind an American Housewife’s Honest Love Affair with the Irrepressible People of Thailand [Paperback]
    Carol Hollinger (Author)

    Like

  15. International mommy says:

    But don’t your schools help you figure out a fair wage?
    We pay our nanny much more than the average Thai nanny… the difference is our nanny speaks English, drives and cooks. I understand that as foreigners we pay a little more but your schools should be on top of helping you with how much stuff should be. Thailand is a barter economy, we know what a regular wage or price is.

    Like

  16. intl_teacher says:

    The movie ‘Cooking With Stella’ should be recommended viewing for all teachers moving to developing countries where they will employ ayahs and drivers. It is hilarious account of the experiences a Canadian diplomat couple posted to Delhi. The movie evolves around their ayah Stella and the creative ways she finds to rip them off.

    Like

  17. Amar says:

    I am a Pakistani n have lived in Pakistan for a some years. I know your domestic staff has the ‘abitility & expertise’ to exploit u bt on the same hand they are very poor people with never ending social, economical & emotional problems. Its very difficult, even for locals, to filter out the ones who have real problems from the ones who are exploiting you. And eveb the ones exploiting u will have real problems but they prefer to spend the ‘help’ elsewhere rather than on solving their problems. HELP WHERE YOUR HEART SAYS TO HELP THEM bt dnt go overboard. You r right about the charity thingi. So why nt help these ppl as long as they r helping u.

    Like

  18. David says:

    A must see – Cooking With Stella.
    This movie about a Cdn diplomat’s family in Delhi is as hilarious as it is (potentially) true with regard to household help.
    Having said that, the best approach is the respectful one.
    First, determine what a fair wage is. As an expat employer, you are already paying more than normal but nothing compared to the value you receive for your money. Your cook essentially acts as your home manager. Our first cook skimmed like crazy so find out what you should be paying for groceries from local staff at the school and give shopping money to your cook accordingly. (Our 2nd cook asked for a quarter of what we were giving the first cook for groceries.)
    If there is a real need and you feel like you want to help, then do so(our inside cleaner was an older women who needed significant work done on her teeth – we paid for it).
    Lastly, please respect each other on these posts. If we don’t act like a professional then why should we be treated like one (sorry for the preach but I feel it needs saying).

    Like

  19. HappyTeacher says:

    I agree with BeenThere’s post. It can be difficult to know what to do when one suddenly has a whole staff of servants. But you have already started a pattern so it would be difficult to stop doing the things you do. While living in a developing country I also started out with my household staff by paying them extra, being sympathetic to their plight, etc. What i found out was they had a complete disrespect of me and my family because I was not following their cultural rules about servant/employee relations. Plus my tolerance of their bad behaviors was causing problems for my neighbors and their servants.

    I consulted with one of my neighbors who told me how that problem would be handled in their culture. I took her advice and was so glad I did. To fix it I had to let them all go which I did at the end of my school year. I paid them 2 extra months of salary so they could job hunt.

    The next group I hired knew from the beginning there would be no cash advances, I would pay tuition for their children’s schooling, I would pay for their medical check-ups for TB, hepatitis, AIDS screening, vaccinations twice yearly (this is to protect my family from contracting diseases from servants), and that while nice I am NOT their friend but their employer. I do not go to funerals, weddings, birthday parties, etc of my employees. I also offerred paid vacation at holidays plus 20% higher pay than local conditions and the benefits described above.

    I set very strict rules and enforced them. For example when the maid did not show up or call for one week and then came back she found her job was already filled. She said she had done that to her previous foreign employer and there was no problem. After that the other employees settled down and there were no more tricks, etc. When the driver and the cook were fighting and tried to involve me I told them both they must settle their problems or I will fire them both. This is how a local employer would handle the situation. They respected that and somehow settled and both kept their jobs.

    I hated having to be tough but it did earn me respect and I got lucky in that my core group of employees stayed with me for the remainder of my contract. My house atmosphere was far more pleasant than it had been with the first group of people I hired. I had my life and they had theirs and everyone felt comfortable with that arrangement.

    Like

    • Eve says:

      Thank you for some practical advice, which is great after all the name calling that has been going on that is helping no one.

      Like

    • Gaia says:

      Amen to that!!! I found that I had to act in a very similar manner with my employees and now we have a good working relationship!!

      Like

  20. Ryan L says:

    I admit that I do like to be “the nice guy” and pay slightly higher than my non-expat neighbors–maybe 10-20%. In a way, I consider it a tip for the patience they have with me–I don’t really speak their language, I have (what seems to them) odd requests, and I sometimes ask them to work on their holidays. I don’t mind spending the extra cash–I’d rather pay someone extra than give that equivalent amount of money away to someone begging. Call me conservative, but I’d rather reward work ethic.

    More importantly, I treat my ‘staff’ (and everyone I have a financial transaction with) with far more respect than they receive with non-expat employers. Our maid tells us stories of verbal and sexual abuse, and I get the impression this is just “expected” by people her in position. She loves working for us and I’ve never felt taken advantage of. Tiny amounts of money (as well as larger sums!) are *always* returned out of pockets, couches, etc. It is a very healthy relationship between two parties of vastly different socio-economic backgrounds.

    Like

    • Des says:

      Absolutely. You get what you pay for. It is worth paying a little bit extra, especially if you want to retain someone who is reliable and good at their job.
      Going back to the original letter you often do need to adopt their families a little bit too. I do not think any teacher with dependent would take an overseas job if there was no health insurance of benefits given to the dependents. It is the same for people who work in our homes – it may not be a written contract, but we should expect to provide a safety net when needed.

      Like

  21. john says:

    You may not be obligated to pay for their personal emergencies, but the salary is fair for what you are getting. Just because lower status workers are not respected in some countries does not mean you have to ignore your own values/morals.

    Like

    • George H. says:

      Thanks John you said exactly what I wanted to say, just a little more politely. Just remember that as teachers we are all considered to be pretty low status in our own countries and probably not too fairly removed from what others might call ‘white trash’ employ people fairly and legally according to local customs and laws and expect them to perform the service for which they are employed. But please don’t ever betray their dignity by whinging or moaning online. As teachers do we want to contribute to a better society or simply fortify and reinforce the old stereotypes and mechanisms of transnational exploitation?

      Like

      • Eve says:

        I do not believe the original poster was whinging. She just wanted help with her dilema of wanting to pay a decent wage and help and finding that this is creating issues. Perhaps some advice for her would be better.

        Like

        • George H. says:

          Thanks for clarifying Eve, that particular comment wasn’t necessarily aimed at her personally, so much as the follow up comments and the context of the debate in general. I am sure that she will ultimately do what is right. I have been in a similar dilemma myself. For most international teachers it is indeed rare to find yourself suddenly as an employer, rather than ‘just’ an employee and it is a heavy responsibility.

          Like

    • Ringo says:

      Just out of curiosity what do you figure is the difference between obliged and obligated?

      Like

  22. Been there... says:

    Oh my, I hate to tell you this, but your staff must be laughing up their sleeves at you. Of course, the locals love to work for foreigners, they’re so easy to take advantage of! I worked at one school where one of the cleaning staff offered to “help us out” by selling us phone cards (time) for 4 times the going rate.

    Your neighbors do have a point. Just as there is something now called “responsible tourism”, there must also be something called “responsible expats”. Just as you would not want to upset the physical environment by littering, etc., you should not upset the social environment by creating unrealistic benefits for an employee.

    Certainly, you want to be a fair and generous employer (where is warranted!), but that’s exactly what you are-an employer and not a charity. You are not obligated to pay for an employees personal/family expenses or to take their tales of woe seriously (I’m sure it is all made up to get money out of you). Your generosity will not be appreciated and only lead to being disrespected.

    If you wish to donate to charity, perhaps you could find a local cause to devote your time and money to-or start one that you can supervise directly. Meanwhile, please remember that your household help are employees who are expected to provide a service in exchange for a wage.

    Like

    • George H. says:

      Are u ‘ serious. You are happily gloating about being able to pay these people considerably less than what would be considered minimum wage anywhere else in the world and are now complaining about them taking advantage of u!

      Like

      • Andy says:

        Talking about minimum pay in Pakistan means you have no understanding of local economies and/or cannot be bothered to find out. A typical, ignorant, holier than thou, viewpoint. Do you not realise that paying UK ‘minimum wages’ will drastically alter the local economy or is it just easier to snipe from afar??
        BTW it is not true that minimum pay exists ‘everywhere else in the world’ unless you consider Europe and US to be everywhere else.

        Like

        • Des says:

          Minimum wage means what you and your family can live on. The fact that many people in Pakistan and other countries live in grinding poverty is not an excuse to keep them there.
          Whilst NGOs are campaigning to make sure no one has to live on less than $2 a day, it disgusts me that wealthy expats are willing to pay people less than that.

          Like

          • George H. says:

            Thanks Des. No one is suggesting that the same minimum wage and conditions apply equally everywhere. A fair and decent deal, according to local conditions is appropriate. It is the exploitative and patronising attitudes which I am ‘having a go’ at, as much as anything else. There is no holier than thou attitude as I have also being guilty of holding similarly poor attitudes towards domestic staff. However, I have also found that staff respond much better when shown some respect, which can on occasion also mean not accepting poor quality work.

            Like

          • George H. says:

            Your analogy is flacid when I employ somebody as a domestic helper than I have a direct contractual relationship with them and have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that they are fairly paid, according to local conditions, and well treated. When I buy an ipad (although i might prefer android) i have no such relationship or influence. There is no convinving evidence to suggest that if I choose to buy product a, instead of product b, any difference at all will be made to the working conditions of indentured servants in Pakistan or factory workers in China.

            Like

        • George H. says:

          Thanks for your insights Andy. You inspired me to doublecheck my facts.
          197 countries in the world, including Pakistan, have minimum wage laws. Various conventions, treaties and declarations have been signed and ratified by the vast majority of countries around the world, including the Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970 which as of November 2010 had been ratified, and therefore has become law, in more than 50 countries from Albania to Japan and from Iraq to Zambia. The C130 Medical Care and Sickness Benefits Convention, 1969 (replacing its precursor which had been in effect since 1927) was also ratified by countries as diverse as Ecuador, Slovakia and Libya, lay a legal, moral and ethical framework for ensuring that employers share at least some of the economic burden of assisting employees, and in some cases their dependants, when their capacity for work and earnings are suspended due to sickness. Now the last time I checked my atlas most if those countries were not part of the US or European empires. Perhaps your maps and your attitudes belong to a more ‘innocent’ period of history when they were.

          Like

          • George H. says:

            We all know that the law, and enforcement of the law are two different things – both in the us/europe and the rest of the world – that’s no excuse though, especially for IB teachers!

            Like

      • Bule says:

        If you adopt that argument, then every time you buy any product made in a developing country or any time you go on holiday in a developing country then you are a ‘racist etc. running dog’! As for getting involved in your household’s lives : don’t be ridiculous! You pay them a fair salary (according to local conditions) and treat them fairly, and that’s it!I have employed domestic helpers before, and once a gardener and driver, and none of them ever tried to tell me about their private lives or ask for anything extra.

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        • George H. says:

          Well Bule I have to admit that the running dog bit was intended to be a bit of a tongue in cheek polemic to provoke a bit if heated debate and thought – it seems to have worked. Working in international schools generally teaching only the wealthy and powerful of course means that we are all reinforcing the established status quo. So i think a little self-reflexivity ought to help us all avoid becoming too smug.

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    • Nicky Scales says:

      I have to agree with the person who submitted this article, I know I overpay my housekeeper and tuk tuk driver but when I was working as a chambermaid before I went to university I was always grateful if a guest left me a tip. When you have nothing I dont think people laugh at you for being generous, mostly they are bloody grateful that they can manage to pay all their bills and maybe send their kids to school.
      I hate the way overpayment is used as if it is upsetting the social system, in the West bankers get huge bonuses and football players earn enormous of amounts of money which compared to a doctor or surgeon is sickening, why then when you move to a poor country does it become the worn out catchphrase to keep the downtrodden even more downtrodden?
      How is it possible to justify that the poor should remain at minimum wage by comparing like with like? In that case most of us would love to get the same wage as the large schools that we can see in the same city we live in but we dont! So I am extremely concerned to hear it being said by someone who I assume is an educator? Ignoring the ethical and moral dimension how can you say that when we so obviously do not live like that in our communities and home countries?

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      • Andy says:

        You do not control the economic system you live in and to attempt to change its local politics with no regard to the influence on greater society is risible.

        Funnily enough, not every culture sees Europe or US as an economic panacea nor do I have to conform to your outdated liberal socialism. The planet is not and does not strive to be one political system.

        Assuming you wear T shirts, buy clothes from European chain stores,turn a blind eye when someone says the nice item you bought was built by minimum wage (or less) earners you are as much a supporter of repressive systems as anyone else. You want to change the system.. then stop exporting western values to the countries you allegedly help with your superior and educated teaching skills.
        Colonialism is also an attitude of superiority. If you don’t think you are superior to local staff than why bother working there? Oh that’s right, you want the ‘cultural experience’, the ability to travel, perhaps the ability to save….all luxuries that you have no problem with and luxuries your local colleagues will never have. Get real and realistically place yourself in the colonial position you have volunteered to put yourself into.

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        • may says:

          Wow Andy, I guess you are right in all those things you say> think you are superior to local staff, want the cultural experience, travel… it is obvious that those are the main reasons one goes to those third world countries and then we need to get real…Actually, you very right, well said!

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        • Eve says:

          Andy presume that you are also an international educator, so what you say applies to you too. If there is a market for international schools, and if those schools chose to employ western teachers. You can hardly blame the teachers for accepting a job that usually has a lot of perks, especially relative to a job at home. That does not make them a colonalist, anymore than leaving a poorer country to work in the west in order to have a better lifestyle makes you a sponger. You do not appear to offer any solutions. Should schools only employ local staff? If you gain a wage that allows you to employ someone is it not your responsibility to do so, therby giving someone a job. I do not feel your remarks really help the original poster with her dilema.

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          • Eve says:

            Please ignore typos I could not see all the text box as I was typing.

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          • Eve says:

            I am not a left-wing liberal.

            All over the world the rich pay for educating their offspring in the belief, mistakenly or otherwise, that they will get a superior education. In poorer countries that means being taught by western teachers, in schools set up by mainly money makers. Unfair it may be, but that is what the market dictates.

            Until that changes teachers will employ maids etc. You appear to be saying that as these teachers are imperialists, rather than the liberals they believe themselves to be, they should not concern themselves with being fair to their employees, or how their actions can impact on the local community.

            You have dispensed with hand-wringing and adopted a more bullish attitude, which you feel compelled to share. What is missing however is practical advice.

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    • may says:

      Well, what you are saying about Pakistan sounds very familiar for International workers of any field. I lived in Africa as an expat and I experienced very similar stories, all I can say that now I am back in Europe where of course I can not afford any of that help and I missed them terribly. I had a wonderful cook, yes, she had her faults, and a great night guard who also fell asleep at nights, but he, they do their job in a way. Just be nice to them, pay them what you consider fair, because I tell you, you will miss them when you are back in europe or america and have to clean the floors, windows, peel the potatos… al by yoursef..!!

      Like

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