Saturday, May 18, 2013

Self-devised employment- a human tragedy


Waiting for work
It's nine am. In the leafy boulevards of 1960s suburb Nasr City, the traffic is moving slowly around the long, narrow green islands in the middle of the road. People are going to work, in cars, taxis or microbuses. The islands fill the middle of every large road, and are well maintained by gardeners who water the flowers and cut the grass. They serve a double function: they prevent the sudden wayward U-turns which would bring traffic to a standstill, forcing drivers to continue to designated turning points. At the same time, they're a crucial green space for those who cannot afford the parks or private clubs. Later in the day, when the sun is overhead, poorer locals will come here to eat their lunch or take a siesta in the shade.
Nasr City, Cairo, in the morning. 
At this time the air is still cool, despite the white sun in the bright blue sky. Sitting in a long row on the low wall between the traffic and the grass, leaning against the railings, are around thirty men. The younger ones are in jeans and short-sleeved check shirts, the older ones in galabeyyas, the long traditional shirt which has come to signify a low income in modern Cairo. All wear flip-flops.They are chatting, laughing, catching up, smoking. Some have bought black tea in grubby glasses from a young boy with a giant thermos flask.

This is the local unofficial labour market. Between 8 and 11 in the morning, contractors, builders and any others who need workers will come and pick up those they want. They will work for the whole day brick-laying, moving concrete or doing odd jobs for anyone who needs them. Some bring their own shovels or tools to increase their chances of selection.