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20 December, 2005

A lack of common census

The UAE census is turning from a mild absurdity into an absolute farce, with the latest news that 150 census enumerators have already quit over low wages and overwork.

There are several reasons why the exercise is absolutely futile: the UAE government would do well to heed them.

1. Cohabitees
Cohabiting by unmarried mixed gender couples is illegal in the UAE and punishable by fines/jail/lashing/deportation depending on the emirate - therefore no one is going to expose themselves by admitting this to the census operators. If one is caught out at a later date, any punishment for having lied on the census will pale into insignificance against a bloody great whipping and several months in jail.

2. Crowdees
Soaring rent hikes have forced many medium-lower income families, particularly Asian expats, to share and sublet apartments. This is nearly always in breach of their contract, and they could be evicted if caught. The same goes for many young professionals who are flat and villa sharing: usually, a rent contract is designed for a single person or married couple only. Faced with eviction and homelessless, and the nightmare of finding another grim hovel, who is going to admit their illegal housesharing to the census operators?

3. Illegals
For the same reasons as above, why are any tourist-visa-hopping kisharoos, let alone those with expired or no visas, going to admit their illegal status?

At the end of the day, no one trusts the goverment's promises of confidentiality, particularly when the census demands that ones full name is given. Why require the name all, if it's just the anonymous numbers game they claim it is?

4. Bureaucracy
Despite the UAE having impressively automated computerised databases of people's residence visas that enable them to prevent the banned from reentering; as well as databases of mobile numbers, home telephone numbers and addresses, driving licenses, and god knows what other personal data, every single formal application in this country has to be accompanied by endless forms: photocopies of passports (photo and visa pages), stamped company letters, salary certificates, and so forth.

Every renewal has to be accompanied by these documents again: even if passport visa pages or employment contracts haven't changed, a new set of identical stamped letters and photocopies are required. It is breathtakingly inefficient, when a simple scan of a UAE visa barcode - which every legal expat resident has - should be able to verify someone's details against a master database.

So why not instead invest the money in aggregating all this data, which would surely be more complete and accurate than house-to-house calls, with terrified in-laws and girlfriends hiding behind curtains and in cupboards?

A suggestion to the UAE government: cut your losses on the census now, and reinvest your money in existing electronic data aggregation and analysis.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

They already have all the information they need, someone just needs to show them how to compile it. I wouldn't give out personal information to anyone in the US why do they think I would do it here. That's like flying the Stars & Stripes in my front yard right along with the Union Jack and painting a bulls-eye on my ass.

20 December, 2005 06:19  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

To catch many ex pats "at home" the enumerator has to be there before 6:30am in the morning when the company bus picks them up, or after 11pm when they get back to the dormitory.

It's an interesting image.

To follow on SD's point about the information the government already has, consider the problem that Tanmia has had in determining whether Emiritization standards are being met by banks. Actually, it has little problem determining the number of expats a bank employs because as part of the Ministry of Labour it has access to the information on work visas and employer sponsorship. Where the problem comes in is verifying the number of nationals working at a bank. There is a government database that ought to serve the purpose - the pensions agency's - but that agency is reluctant to share its information with Tanmia.

20 December, 2005 08:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this country and the countries around us, we are like Ostrich! our heads in the sand.

yes, there are all these issue but hey but InshaAllah everything will be fine... Duhhhh!!!

20 December, 2005 10:05  
Blogger CG said...

I was in Turkey a decade ago when they were doing the census thingy. There was a curfew for the whole day while the guys belted it around town doing the necessary. They started early morning and were finished by nightime. A fun day was had by all.

20 December, 2005 11:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cg, if a holiday is ever declared in the UAE for the sake of a census, rest assured, it will be on a Friday. The public sector will then inevitably be closed on Saturday as well.

20 December, 2005 12:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think SD and John Chilton hit the most important notes here. The census is important and I am glad the government is taking the initiative. However, they are obviously ill-prepared for it.

1. The form is horribly done. You can't write anything intelligible in it.

2. The quesitons are too invasive. I was asked for my place of employment. When I asked why so many questions, he joked back saying, it's a good thing they're not making us ask you for your salary certificate!

Set up a system to account for your own citizens and then aggregate both with those who are residents, visiting (those overstaying their welcome).. and you have all the numbers you want at half the price.

20 December, 2005 13:59  
Blogger samuraisam said...

i've been trawling through the news recently, and i can see no reason whatsoever the government doesn't already have all the information required. they're even implementing national ID cards...

i don't think it'd be extreme to say dubai gives it's residents a very very low amount of privacy. Though, is it for better or worse?

20 December, 2005 14:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to interrupt...

20 December, 2005 21:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the census. I remember a chap coming around a couple of months ago. We sat in the garden, I offered a cup of tea, he declined. He asked a couple of questions, then found out I taught English. End of census. Quick English lesson followed by pleas for more, but I can't afford the time. He was a great bloke, fun to talk to and a real gentleman. Meanwhile, inside, females of negotiable virtue slept safely awaiting the late night shift in now defunct venues. I wish.

20 December, 2005 23:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CID called me on my mobile once (1.40am on a Thursday night / Friday morning) to tell me they had apprehended someone who stole my wallet. When I asked them how they had my mobile number, the detective laughed and said "we know everything about you, we're CID". Having said that, they were brilliant when dealing with the whole sorry affair.

21 December, 2005 09:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I'm coming to the end of my tether with this country - everywhere I look I see incompetence, corruption, poor standards, hypocrisy, unbelievably bad planning and it's generally a mess.

It's ok though, they have vision!

I’ve been here for two years – I’m pragmatic in the fact that any major city has its good and bad points, why should Dubai be any different. I hoped that the business climate would mature and become more sophisticated in that time but, if anything, it has got worse. When you look at the major international players, those that need to be here already are and I can’t see any major industrial or corporate names coming here soon – what you do have are thousands of small and medium companies starting up and fighting for an ever smaller market share than before, mostly in markets that have little or no worth to the actual economy – I’m talking media agencies etc…

Ps - Yes, to you idiots that say if you don't like it etc... I'm leaving as soon as possible - If I want to pay high rents & sit in traffic all day, I'll do it at home where I'm close to my loved ones and part of a culture, while not perfect, at least makes sense on a basic level.

21 December, 2005 10:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really does boggle the mind how with all the information at their fingertips the government is setting out to perform a rather poorly planned census. People in Dubai have every reason to be un-cooperative, evasive or argumentative:

1-Improperly trained census takers with limited English skills & poor social skills

2-Utterly intrusive questions whose purpose is vague, especially when the same information will be aggregated. Sounds more like the beginnings of a "1984" society, especially now with suggestions of drawing blood to extract our DNA and compile this into a database. Definitely an assault on human rights and a major invasion of privacy

3-No real benefit. As someone quite correctly pointed out, we provide the authorities with innumerable forms filled to the brim with details about us. Why not share the information between agencies instead of justifying a Brussels-size bureaucracy to collate this information.

PS To anon. 10:55..well said and very true.

21 December, 2005 21:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 21 December, 2005 10:55

I wouldn't be so quick to call others idiots if I were you. Though, it really is a simple solution -- if you don't like it, leave. If you want to critique, try to change, etc. then you are probably the best type for the city.

Also, media agencies, etc. _do_ contribute to the economy of the city and country. I would recommend you take econ 101.

21 December, 2005 21:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coincidence or happy accident, I was left a form to fill in today by the census people. Basically, a table with boxes to fill in. Certain boxes confused me, for example "Social Status" err, I have a big car. And the best was (I'm sure it's a translation issue), the section headed "Sons", no section for daughters. Or perhaps they know I don't have any?

21 December, 2005 23:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to government's recent plans to implement mass DNA-sampling system, I think we're gonna have lots of people get deported after the feds find out the effects of "vibrant" nightlife in Dubai. I foresee the offices of ladies with questionable profession will be a lot more emtier.

22 December, 2005 06:43  

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