Mica Mining Exposes Child Labor In The Makeup Industry
Story from Beauty The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret Is Hiding In Your Makeup Bag Nine thousand miles away, in a remote village in India, children are risking their lives to bring you the shimmer in your makeup. Lexy Lebsack Every morning, Pooja Bhurla wakes up next to her grandmother on the charpoy woven cot that they share in the small entry room of her family’s home. She doesn’t mind that they sleep at an arm’s distance from her family’s small flock of goats; at 11 years old she thinks that sharing a room with animals is kind of cool. Pooja pulls on a pair of yellow leggings and an embroidered green dress, slips on her brown flip flops, and drapes a bright pink scarf over her shoulders. Some days, she helps sweep the concrete floors or babysits her two younger brothers, but most mornings she gets up early with her father and heads for the mines. Advertisement appearance by Lexy Lebsack. The two trudge along a dirt trail that snakes through the outskirts of the small village where they live. Like sparkly breadcrumbs, mica leads the way. What starts as a fine sheen turns into large silver shards as you get closer to the mines. When they arrive, kids are already pouring out of holes in the ground, their cheeks and clothes caked with glittery dust. Pooja and her friends — some as young as five years old — will spend the rest of the day shimmying into small, man-made tunnels in embankments all around the area. Armed with ice picks, hammers, and baskets, they carefully chip into the sides and backs of the small pits to loosen rock and dirt before carefully hauling it out of the mine. The children take turns dumping their baskets over a rudimentary sifting tool — a large piece of netting with a wooden frame — that reveals handfuls of mica, a shimmery mineral composite that’s been forming underground for hundreds of years. It’s estimated that 22,000 children work in mica mines in India. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. If Pooja’s lucky, she’ll make between 20 to 30 rupees for a day’s work (converted to roughly 29 to 43 cents in U.S. currency at time of publication). Not only is her work keeping her from attending school, but it also puts her in harm’s way every single day. If a mine collapses while she’s inside — a daily risk for the estimated 22,000 kids that work in the mica mines in neighboring states of Jharkhand and Bihar — it could leave her injured, paralyzed, or dead. It’s a risk she’s all too aware of. The tops of her hands are already scarred from sharp, fallen rocks and she often thinks about a boy her age who died in a nearby mine when it collapsed. Advertisement Pooja has no idea where the mica goes after it’s sold to brokers in town — she just knows that it’s the only way to feed her family. The Beauty Industry’s Darkest Secret Eventually the raw material excavated by Pooja and her peers will be collected by a broker who sells it to an exporter, who then delivers it to a manufacturer, typically in China. It’s then milled into fine, pearly pigment that is purchased by international beauty companies to add a reflective finish to eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, and more. Everyone in the supply chain financially benefits from obscuring the origin of the mica through this complicated turn of hands, because it keeps costs low by allowing exporters to exploit the people mining it. Raw mica is milled into shimmer for the cosmetics industry. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. Mica linked to child labor is littered throughout the cosmetics industry — taking up residency in everything from high-end eyeshadows palettes to drugstore lipsticks. Listed as ‘mica,’ ‘potassium aluminium silicate,’ and ‘CI 77019,’ on ingredient lists, it’s what gives body lotion or eye cream a light glow, makes toothpaste look extra bright, or provides BB cream with a subtle radiance. Unlike chunky glitter often made from plastic , mica’s delicate shimmer is one of the pillars of modern makeup — and 60% of the high-quality mica that goes into cosmetics comes from India, mostly from neighboring regions of Bihar and Jharkhand, where child mining and worker exploitation is the norm. While some cosmetics companies look the other way after getting a killer deal on the natural pigment, the solution for brands who don’t want to be associated with child labor isn’t as simple as pulling out of India completely. Abandoning the existing sources leaves communities like Pooja’s worse off, but staying in is rife with problems, too. As the industry navigates the complicated issue, children continue to slave in dangerous mines for pennies of what the industry makes for the sparkly cosmetics. Advertisement Children as young as 5 make around a quarter per day mining mica. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. Life In Jharkhand Mines like the one Pooja works in are scattered throughout Jharkhand and Bihar, more than a 12-hour train ride from the capitol of New Delhi. Locals have mined mica in this part of India for millenia, using it both for decoration and Ayurvedic medicine . But everything changed in the late 19th century, when British colonizers discovered the valuable mineral and nicknamed the area “the mica belt.” By the time India won independence from British rule in 1947, the country was approaching a count of 700 mines filled with 20,000 workers. Then came the fall: The wealthy, mica-hungry USSR collapsed, creating a mini mica recession, and eventually the Indian government stopped monitoring the mines altogether. The government made mining illegal in the 1980s in the name of preventing deforestation, but failed to actually close mines or redirect workers to new industries, creating an economic vacuum that still persists. The states of Jharkhand and Bihar make up India’s “mica belt.” | Illustration by Hannah Minn. Today mica is in its second golden period with China picking up where the USSR left off. Roughly 70% of mica produced in India comes from illegal mines that are totally unregulated by the government. With no other industries in the region, many families have no choice but to continue working in crumbling mines under a new, informal organization sometimes referred to as the “ mica mafia .” Family mining is common, and a young child’s small stature and nimble hands also make them valuable for entering narrow mine shafts and sorting smaller pieces of mica. It’s a classic case of the resource curse , where developing economies are worse off for their natural resources because of exploitation by the developed world. Advertisement During R29 ’s investigation, we came upon mines in Jharkhand with children working who were as young as five years old. Most reported that they didn’t go to school and had been working in mines for as long as they could remember. None of them knew where the mica ended up, but everyone knew the dangers. Breathing in the dust in mica mines can cause infections, disease, and permanent damage to lungs, but there’s a much more catastrophic risk that worries locals most — and one the Kumari family suffered firsthand. Surma Kumari, 11, and her sister Lakmi, 14, were working in a mine when it began to crumble. When they tried to run, Surma got stuck under a rock and Lakmi was buried under a mountain of debris. Their mother and father were in the village when they heard there had been an accident, but by the time they got to the mine, Lakmi had died. “We couldn’t get her out for an hour,” says Surma, her surviving sister. The Kumari family lost their teen daughter in a mine collapse. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. Over a year later, Surma is still dealing with the aftermath of two broken feet, a fractured leg, and damage to her spine. Her father borrowed money to get her basic medical care, and she spent weeks in the hospital followed by six months on bedrest at home. One of her legs is now longer than the other, and she can’t run or play. “It still hurts when I walk,” she told us. She stopping mining and returned to school after she recovered, the only bright spot from the entire catastrophe. She doesn’t know if things will get better or worse, but her family is hoping for the best as they adjust to life without her older sister. Advertisement Surma Kumari, 11, shows scars from a mine collapse. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. Surma’s father, Kishar Kumari, told us that deaths are so common that the traders who control this particular cluster of mines have a set rate they give to families who lose loved ones while mining. “For each person who dies, they give 30,000 rupees [or about $432 in U.S. dollars],” Kishar says. “That was it; they don’t do anything for safety.” Kishar has limited options to make a living, so he still works in the same mines, but stays above ground to sort the mica because it’s lower risk. “There’s no other form of [work],” he explains. “When you’re hungry, there’s no other way.” A 2016 investigation by Reuters found that not only had children regularly died in these mines, but many of the deaths had been covered up by local officials, making an actual fatality count difficult to nail down. According to Nagasayee Malathy, executive director of Indian advocacy group Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation , or KSCF, not much has changed since that investigation. She estimates that there are between 10 and 20 deaths in mines every month, a conservative number based on what we heard on the ground. Kishar never saw the police fill out a report when they came to take Lakmi’s body for examination, and tells us that nothing happened to the traders who control the mine. It was all business as usual. Cleaning Up The Mess While the mica in your makeup could have been excavated by an adult, and there’s even a chance they received a fair wage, there’s no reliable way of telling just by looking at the ingredients list. The equivalent of a Leaping Bunny emblem for ethical mica sourcing doesn’t yet exist. Advertisement Child labor is common throughout Jharkhand and Bihar. | Photographed by Jack Pearce & Iris Xu. Most cosmetic brands don’t want to talk about mica mining — no matter where they land — but UK-based Lush Cosmetics has been very vocal about its decision. When the brand was tipped off that its supply chain might be dirty in 2014, Lush reps reached out to its suppliers. ”We were told that we couldn’t [visit the mines] without armed accompaniment, we couldn’t get the independent verification, or the traceability in the origin of it,” says Gabbi Loedolff, Lush’s head of raw materials and safe synthetic sourcing. The brand decided to start swapping in synthetic mica — a biodegradable shimmer pigment created in a lab — and announced its products were totally mica-free as of last year. “We really didn’t have much of a choice,” Loedolff told me on a press trip to London where the brand unveiled its position to international editors. But some experts argue that this ‘cut and run’ tactic can make the situation even worse for the people being exploited. “Pulling out will not solve any of their issues,” says Aysel Sabahoglu, former senior technical advisor of children’s rights at Terre des Hommes , a Dutch watchdog group monitoring the mica issue in India. She believes that brands that have contributed to the current situation have a responsibility to clean up the supply chain and become involved in social empowerment programs for those communities. “It’s important to stay in to ensure that the people who are sourcing this mica get a decent price for the raw materials they mine. Only then the cycle of poverty will be broken in those countries,” she says. “Mica is their sole livelihood. They depend on mica.” Advertisement Mica supply chains aren’t developed enough to guarantee fair wages. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. All the workers we spoke to on the ground agreed. “We have to take care of the kids and have no other business,” Kishar explains. “How else will we feed them?” Instead, his wish is for brokers to create safer conditions and pay more for the raw materials. Lush defends its position by saying that its impact was small. “It wasn’t a comfortable and easy [decision] to walk away, because once you walk away, you don’t have that sphere of influence anymore,” Loedolff adds. “We felt like, by ourselves, we didn’t really have the opportunity to change anything in a big industry. So, the only choice we had was to make a switch so that we weren’t supporting an industry that didn’t sit well with our ethics.” Most of the biggest cosmetic conglomerates in the world, like L’Oréal — which owns brands like Maybelline, Urban Decay, Essie, Nyx, and more — have gone the other direction. “We believe that discontinuing the use of Indian mica would further weaken the local situation,” L’Oréal said in an official statement to R29 . “L’Oréal is committed to the continued sourcing [of] natural mica from India in order to allow already impoverished communities to keep generating income. To do so, L’Oréal ensures traceability and transparency of its whole supply chain to guarantee fair and responsible mica.” The brand says it only buys from suppliers who source from independently-verified, gated mines where children are not present. “ I just want an education. If I study, only then can I be something. Pooja Bhurla, 11 ” But here’s the catch: Experts with representatives on the ground remind us that it’s still too early for any guarantees. Terre des Hommes says that mica collected by children is easily, and often, sold to foreign entities under the license of a legal mine; traders just lie about where they got it. “The majority of mica mining takes place in Jharkhand and Bihar, but there are hardly any legal mines in these states, so the mica from these states is exported using the licenses of legal mines in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan,” Claire van Bekkum, senior project manager at TDH, explains. Advertisement The reality is, the supply chains around mica simply aren’t developed enough for anyone to ensure that children are not working, let alone make claims about the safety or wages for adults. Standards have been set by the Indian government , but our sources say that third party certification companies suffer from corruption, and there are issues throughout the current verification processes. Every cosmetics company we reached out to declined to comment on how they guarantee where in India their mica comes from. Many brands have recognized the complex, deep-seated reliance the industry has created in these communities and have joined working groups in an effort to band together for change, but progress has been slow. One such group is the Responsible Mica Initiative , or RMI, a cross-industry “do tank” that was started in 2017 to create an ethical, transparent supply chain by 2022. Cosmetic conglomerates like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies, LVMH, Coty, Chanel, and Shiseido have all joined. The mica mined in India gives shimmer to cosmetics and car paint. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. RMI is totally funded by member dues, which are determined on a sliding scale of the joining company’s annual revenues. Last year, this ranged from $8,400 for brands that make less than $56 million per year to $62,000 for companies that make more than 10 billion, a fourfold increase from 2017 to accommodate RMI’s growing operation. That adds up to over $900,000 for RMI to work with in 2018 alone. But despite these resources, the group is still in its planning stages — and has received criticism as a result. Advertisement “We share everyone’s desire to move quickly,” says Fanny Frémont, executive director of RMI. “However, our 20 founding members wanted to create a permanent solution to the problem. We wanted not only to get kids out of mines, but also address the underlying causes with a holistic approach that would improve their villages, set sound working standards, and regulate the entire mica sector.” RMI’s team is only comprised of three people — Frémont is based in France and she has two employees in India — and spent its first two years developing its strategy, but things seem to be ramping up. RMI released its first report in March, and is acting on the goals it carefully laid out. “We’re supporting schooling for children, better health care for children and women, and helping villages expand their means of livelihood beyond mica mining,” Frémont says. “Our momentum is building every day.” To address a complicated issue, many companies are turning to India-based nonprofits who intimately understand the unique cultural, socioeconomic, and governmental factors that drive this issue as well, some of which are also part of RMI. Children In Charge One initiative that is boasting impressive returns requires the labor-intensive process of going village by village to mobilize the children — but the results speak for themselves. Organizations like the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation and Bachpan Bachao Andolan are working to create “child-friendly” villages that turn children into their own activists by giving them a voice. Champa Kumari, 14, leads a meeting of the Child Parliament. | Photographed by Jack Pearce. “A child-friendly village is where the children and adults are able to talk about their village development together, collectively,” says Malathy. Through a series of hands-on meetings, they empower kids to understand their rights so they can assemble to fight the issues that impact them most: child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, and a lack of teachers and schools. They also assist parents in finding additional revenue streams to support the family while the children are in school. Advertisement It’s the kind of work that earned Kailash Satyarthi the 2014 Nobel Prize. His foundations (KSCF and BBA) have freed over 80,000 children from child labor across industries, including 3,000 from mica mines. According to Anna Klein, VP of global corporate affairs for the Estée Lauder Companies, partnering with BBA was the right choice for its many brands, which includes M.A.C., Clinique, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, and many more. Estée Lauder Companies decided not to pull out of India when it learned of its connection to child labor practices back in 2005. Instead, it joined BBA on the ground to help create change from the inside out. Now, on top of giving children an education, BBA delivers legal services to help connect the villages with their government to get the healthcare, education, and infrastructure that they have been denied. “What ensures sustainability is ensuring that the community is able to take on the ownership of these tasks over the long term,” Klein says, noting that this kind of endeavor requires a lot of time on the ground. “Our first visit, we met a group of children who now, 10 years later, are leading these efforts for their communities,” she told R29 . For them, it’s a long-term relationship. “At the end of the day, we need to do right by the people we are working with.” “ When I was in the mines, my future was bleak, I never thought I would be able to study. Champa Kumari, 14 ” One of the most important parts of the child friendly villages is the Child Parliament, a group of young representatives from each village who come together to discuss pertinent issues. Its current leader is Champa Kumari, 14, a living example of the movement’s success. A few years ago, she was just another kid working in the mica mine. Now, she’s organizing school walkouts for more teachers, demanding meetings with government officials, and uniting children from dozens of villages to expand their reach. “Lots of schools have received new teachers and we will soon have thirteen new teachers [in one village],” she says. “When I was in the mines, my future was bleak, I never thought I would be able to study.” Advertisement KSCF is also working toward getting the government to crack down on exploitation by legalizing mining once again, but these child-friendly villages have proven to be the most effective method for real change. Hope For The Future The speed of progress lies in the hands of every person who touches the supply chain, from miners to consumers, and until change is widespread, kids like Pooja continue to toil in the mines. She hasn’t gone to school in three years, since she was eight years old, and returning is her biggest dream. “I just want an education,” she says. “If I study, only then can I be something.” Pooja Burla, 11, has worked in mica mines since she was 8. Photographed by Jack Pearce. Her dad, Deepu Bhurla, hopes KSCF’s work reaches his village and that Pooja is lucky enough to be added to the list of children who will be sent to school. There’s currently a school in her town, but no teacher. He could send her to boarding school, but he’d have to earn a lot more. It’s not for a lack of hard work: Deepu says he can collect about 50 kilograms of mica per day (about 100 pounds), which he can sell for 3-10 rupees per kg. That means he’s earning between $2 and $8 per day right now, depending on the quality of the mica. Deepu says his family’s whole life would change if he could sell the mica for between 40 and 50 rupees per kg, which would make him between $28 and $37 per day. “I could send the kids to school, run my household, and construct my home a little better,” he says, but he remains skeptical of that ever happening. While some brands we spoke to report that child labor has or will be fully removed from their supply chains, many declined to comment on how much adults were being paid who work in the Indian mines, a major roadblock to true transparency. Stories like Pooja’s are overwhelming for average American consumers, but ultimately, we all have far more power than we might realize. You can donate or plan fundraisers for groups like KSCF , Terre des Hommes , or BBA as a start, then pressure beauty brands to be transparent about where they get their mica. Having a supply chain linked to child labor is bad for business — even a few tweets asking questions about a brand’s supply chain can create widespread conversations that could ultimately drive real momentum and change. “Seeking of information is the responsibility of the consumers,” Malathy says. “You have the right to know if you are buying child labor-free.” You can tweet, DM, call, or write to the brands you use, but don’t give up until you understand exactly where its mica comes from and what they’re doing to help the communities that have mined the beauty industry’s mica for decades. Until then, girls like Pooja wait — and work. Advertisement
John McDonnell Says Theresa May Can Not Be Trusted Over Brexit Talks
Australia Brasil Canada Deutschland España France Ελλάδα (Greece) India Italia 日本 (Japan) 한국 (Korea) Maghreb México Québec (en français) South Africa United Kingdom United States POLITICS 05/05/2019 12:20 BST | Updated 06/05/2019 10:03 BST John McDonnell Says Theresa May Can Not Be Trusted Over Brexit Talks Shadow chancellor says PM has ‘blown the confidentiality’ of cross-party negotiations. By Ned Simons John McDonnell has said he does not trust Theresa May, as he accused her of jeopardising the cross-party Brexit talks for her own “personal protection”.
According to The Sunday Times, the prime minister is preparing to give ground this week in the discussions, the shadow chancellor said she had “blown the confidentiality” of the talks.
He said his party wanted to get a deal done “as soon as possible” but needed guarantees that an agreement would not be “ripped up” by a future Conservative leader.
May urged Labour to put his differences with her aside, while International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said the ball was in Jeremy Corbyn’s court.
Stewart told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I think a deal can be done, a lot of this rests on, to be honest, one man: whether Jeremy Corbyn really wants to deliver a Brexit deal.
“But I think if he wants to do it it will be actually surprisingly easy to do because our positions are very, very close.”
Asked on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show if he trusted May, Mcdonnell replied: “No, sorry, not after this weekend when she’s blown the confidentiality I had and I actually think she’s jeopardised the negotiations for her own personal protection.”
He accused May of acting in “bad faith” after the Sunday Times reported that the PM would put forward plans for a comprehensive but temporary customs arrangement with the EU that would last until the next general election.
And he said: “We are negotiating with Theresa May’s team as requested. Whilst we’re doing that and we think we’re gaining an understanding of our different positions and where we can reach some compromise, in the wings, if you like, are all the leadership candidates virtually threatening to tear up whatever deal that we do.
“So we’re dealing with a very unstable government and let me just use this analogy: it’s trying to enter into a contract with a company that’s going into administration and the people who are going to take over are not willing to fulfil that contract. We can’t negotiate like that.”
McDonnell also said it “may well” be the case that any deal would have to be voted on in a second referendum, adding: “I think the Conservatives have to recognise that if a deal is going to go through there might be a large number of MPs who will want a public vote.”
The prime minister, writing in the Mail on Sunday, issued a rallying cry to MPs urging them to support cross-party efforts to “break the deadlock” and get a deal through the Commons.
She said she understood why some of her colleagues found the decision to hold talks with Labour “uncomfortable”, and admitted it was not what she wanted either.
But she said the crushing blow voters delivered on both parties at the local elections had given “fresh urgency” to the need to end the impasse.
“To the leader of the opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote.
It came as more than 100 opposition MPs from five parties wrote to the PM and Corbyn to say they would not support a “Westminster stitch-up” and would vote against a customs union unless it is put to a referendum.
The MPs said: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”
Related… Huawei Leak Does ‘Not Amount To Criminal Offence’, Police Say Suggest a correction Ned Simons Politics news editor, HuffPost UK
European Parliament Elections 2019 WILL Go Ahead In UK, Government Confirms
Australia Brasil Canada Deutschland España France Ελλάδα (Greece) India Italia 日本 (Japan) 한국 (Korea) Maghreb México Québec (en français) South Africa United Kingdom United States POLITICS 07/05/2019 15:08 BST | Updated 5 hours ago European Parliament Elections 2019 WILL Go Ahead In UK, Government Confirms Theresa May’s deputy confirms the worst kept secret in Westminster 144 By Paul Waugh Theresa May is braced for an angry Brexiteer backlash after the government confirmed that the controversial European Parliament elections will definitely now go ahead.
Cabinet minister David Lidington announced that the poll would take place on Thursday May 23 because there was no time left for Westminster to ratify the PM’s Brexit plans that would have made them redundant.
With legislation needing at least three weeks to get through all its stages in the Commons, May’s de facto deputy admitted the government had no chance of passing it before the planned polling day.
Recent polls show that Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party is on course for a stunning victory in the elections, with Labour in second place and the Liberal Democrats and Greens set to outgun the Tories too.
Press Association Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with MEP candidate Ann Widdecombe The Conservatives facing a drubbing as former ‘Leave’ voters express their frustration that the UK is still in the EU nearly three years after the 2016 referendum.
May is already facing backbench fury over Brexit talks being held with Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to break the Parliamentary deadlock.
The negotiations between government and opposition were resuming on Tuesday afternoon as the PM desperately sought a way to rescue her ‘divorce’ deal.
Before the official confirmation, millions of voters had already been sent election leaflets from MEP candidates for each of the political parties.
Ministers still hold out hope that if a deal can be reached with Labour and the necessary legislation is passed through the Commons by June 30, the MEPs won’t have to take their seats on July 2.
It remains unclear whether the Tory party will have a full-blown Euro elections campaign launch, with many of their members and MPs refusing to take part.
Theresa May’s unofficial deputy David Lidington confirms UK will hold European elections later this month, as MPs run out of time to agree a #Brexit deal before the vote – but he still hopes UK MEPs “never actually have to take their seats” https://t.co/pqMUFkdggp pic.twitter.com/PI8pryfhad
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 7, 2019 Speaking ahead of cross-party talks on Brexit, David Lidington said: “Parliament has had several occasions to vote on leaving the European Union.
“So far, every time there has been a majority against leaving with any particularly orderly deal, so we are engaged as a Government in talks with the opposition, and with others across Parliament, to try and find a way forward that has maximum possible support amongst politicians of all political parties.
“But what this now means, given how little time there is, is that it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for European Parliamentary elections.
“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place. But legally, they do have to take place – unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect – so those will now go ahead.”
The minister added that he would be “redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs of all parties” to ensure the delay after the May 23 poll was a short as possible. to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible.
“Ideally we’d like to be in a situation where those MEPs never actually have to take their seat at European Parliament, certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess,” he said.
PATRICK HERTZOG via Getty Images The European Parliament building in Strasbourg Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, was due to meet the prime minister on Tuesday to repeat its demand that she set a clearer timetable and ‘roadmap’ for her departure from Number 10.
But his vice-chairman Charles Walker told BBC Radio 4′s The World At One programme that Tory Brexiteers were to blame for the elections because they refused to back her deal.
“There are colleagues who have suggested the Prime Minister should go, the Prime Minister has said that she wants to leave early in her premiership, but she doesn’t want to leave this god almighty mess,” he said.
“I think there’s a blame displacement process going on within the Conservative Party at the moment, laying it all on her shoulders. We all need to take personal responsibility for the fact that we are still in the EU and that we are in government.”
This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.
Related… Exclusive: Labour’s Latest European Election Leaflet Triggers Backlash Over Second Referendum Suggest a correction Paul Waugh Executive Editor, Politics, HuffPost UK
Success stories: How three UAE expats tackled debts, huge loans and credit cards
Also in this package Dealing with debt and loans in the UAE: First-hand accounts Can a family of three live on Dh1,500 in the UAE? I spend a lot of money and end up in debt in Dubai: How I survive, save myself from trouble Dubai: Living an expensive lifestyle in the UAE is not difficult, especially because of the easy access to borrowed funds. A nice house, that latest car model, an upgraded gadget; everything is just a loan or credit card away. And easy-payment options and discounts encourage you to splurge that little extra on yourself.
However, a lack of understanding of loan eligibility, excessive borrowings and using multiple debt channels have sent many UAE expats running into debt traps in the past.
Is it possible to escape the endless cycle of borrow to pay off?
It becomes an endless cycle of borrow to pay off. But, once caught up in it, is it possible to escape?
Yes, say three UAE expats. Here’s a look at how they found themselves in huge debts, but successfully rose back to financial stability.
‘I bought many things that I didn’t really need…’ Fifteen years ago, Filipina expat Melissa (name changed upon request) got hired as a sales executive in a multinational company in Dubai. Her salary and commissions totalled around Dh15,000 every month.
A steady monthly income didn’t stop Melissa from getting 10 credit cards.
As a breadwinner, she took care of the tuition fees of her three siblings and provided financial assistance to her parents in the Philippines.
She had invested in a house and a lot in her home country, paying Dh3,000 a month for five years. She was remitting around Dh5,000 to the Philippines every month.
The rest of her salary was reserved for her extravagant lifestyle – mainly shopping sprees and luxurious globe-trotting.
I want it, I got it Her monthly income didn’t stop Melissa from getting 10 credit cards. She said: “Although I was receiving a decent salary, I was swayed to get 10 credit cards from different banks as their promotions were very attractive. It was very easy to get credit cards in Dubai [at] that time. I
“magine, I used to have free valet service, free movies, air miles, discounted rates for dining, hotels and so on. I enjoyed my life to the fullest. As a single lady, I partied every weekend and travelled a lot. I must admit that I was a shopaholic back then. Discounts were tempting, I purchased branded bags, clothes, watches and shoes from Celine to Chanel, Chopard to Dior, Hermes to Gucci, Omega to Rolex, you name it, I had it.
“I bought many things that I didn’t really need, just to avail of the best deals, and it made me feel good. I even gave expensive gifts to family and friends. I swiped my cards everywhere, I earned points on my cards, which got converted into shopping vouchers.”
Although I was receiving a decent salary, I was swayed to get 10 credit cards from different banks as their promotions were very attractive. – Melissa (name changed), Filipina expat Bills, bills, bills And then came the bills. In the beginning, Melissa was prompt in paying the outstanding amounts, but as times went by, the bills piled up. Soon, she was knee-deep in debt. Melissa said: “It was hard to cope with the mounting bills and maintain my lifestyle. I only paid the minimum due amount of my credit card bills, as I had other obligations back home and also had to spend on myself. I had to suffer paying the huge interest amounts in the end. Sometimes due to outstanding bills and interests, my cards went over the limit, so I got charged over limit fees.”
Hitting rock-bottom Melissa’s situation worsened when she missed a payment once: “One time, I missed paying due to some emergencies. Then agents called, harassing me to pay and threatened that they would file legal cases. They were slowly killing me. It gave me high blood pressure. I was feeling down, drained and depressed. When my bills shot up to Dh200,000, I hit rock bottom!”
Breaking the habit Melissa realised it was time to change her lifestyle: “I sold the branded items I had and borrowed money from friends to pay off the credit card bills, but the interests were way too much. I struggled to survive.”
I almost died due to debts, it was a tough learning experience for me. I should have paid my credit card bills in full every month. – Melissa (name changed) So, how did the 38-year-old finally cope with the situation? Melissa said: “I attended a seminar on how to manage your finances, there I learnt how to create a budget. I started jotting down all my expenses and income, spending wisely and kept at least 15 per cent of my salary as my savings for retirement.
“I completely changed my lifestyle. I refused to go to malls to avoid temptations. I went out with my friends only once a month, just to bond with friends, we dined at our homes. Also, my remittance lessened since my siblings graduated from university.
“I have fully paid my property, which I’m renting out now. This extra money goes to my retirement savings. More importantly, I followed the advice of my financial coach to approach a bank to consolidate all my credit card bills and close all 10 credit cards and just pay off one bank for my personal loan, wherein the interest rate got significantly reduced. Then I was able to get back on my feet again.”
Financial freedom Melissa learnt her lesson the hard way. She said: “I almost died due to debts, it was a tough learning experience for me. I should have paid my credit card bills in full every month, or set up an auto–debit from my salary account to pay them off to avoid huge interests. I am indebted to the financial expert’s advice.
“I am now mindful and buy only necessary things. I am no longer an impulsive buyer. I decide on my priorities, and save automatically. Finally, I am debt-free and stress-free now.
“I am currently earning more, managing my own business and heading towards financial freedom. I chose to live life in a simpler way now, and share my blessings to others, and there I find true happiness.”
A banker with a debt of Dh80,000 You would think such situations can’t happen to someone who understands finance. But Indian expat Sujith Chandrashekharan, a banker by profession has a different story to tell – one about how he landed himself in a debt of Dh80,000.
Before he knew it, the 35-year-old had five credit cards, an auto loan and a personal loan.
Chandrashekharan came to the UAE in 2008. His salary then was Dh4,500. He said: “I earned a decent salary and some months my incentives would go up to Dh30,000 or more.”
Chandrashekharan lived a comfortable life until 2014. But things began to change. Before he knew it, the 35-year-old had five credit cards, an auto loan and a personal loan. It was also the year he got married. But that wasn’t it. He took a loan out to help a friend.
Situation worsensed A family emergency added woe to his financial situation. He started missing payments and the interest on the cards was high.
A never-ending cycle Chandrashekharan said: I took another card with a higher limit. But faced a similar situation again. I was [getting] money from [one] source to trying to close another. I thought my sales incentives might help but [that] didn’t happen. And soon another emergency struck.”
Adding to this, in 2015, the couple had a baby and the family’s monthly expense increased. He added: “When I look back, I still don’t understand where I spent the money.”
Turning point In 2016, Chandrashekharan lost his job, and his gratuity was meagre, not enough to settle any debt. This was Chandrashekharan’s turning point. He knew he needed to take control: “I budgeted everything. I didn’t spend even 25 fils unnecessarily. I ensured my family had everything they needed but nothing extra. We moved to [a] cheaper place and focused on slowly settling our debts.”
I budgeted everything. I didn’t spend even 25 fils unnecessarily. I ensured my family had everything they needed but nothing extra. – Sujith Chandrashekharan, Indian expat Chandrashekharan finally found a new job. He said: “I started using a major part of my salary to close the cards.” He took a personal loan at a lower interest rate to close every other debt. His incentives went into rent and he ensured that all expenses of the family stayed within a limit of Dh5,000.
Time to save Now, Sujith and his family make sure that they save Dh7,000 a month. He added: “I am constantly aware now that I have one loan. I am paying it off properly on time. But, I am at peace now, I don’t have to borrow from anyone anymore.”
His 5 tips The banker shared these tips to come out of debt:
Financial planning is important. Live within your means, understand the difference between what is necessary and what is not. You can buy rice for Dh5 and Dh10. Buy the kind that you can afford without touching your savings. Find a house where you can afford the rent. Stay away from borrowing. And lend only if you have extra. Try to save at least Dh1 a day, slowly you will save more. Calculate your expenses ahead and save the rest. Do so in advance, before you start spending for the month. Stay away from deals and offers. They may attract you but buy things only when you need them. Chasing the dream Sharon Sison came to the UAE in 2009, working as a singer at one of the restaurants in Dubai. After her temporary contract came to an end, Sison did not wish to return to her home in the Philippines and decided to find another working opportunity.
Image for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Stock image
“I was very adventurous – Dubai’s lifestyle seems to suit my kind of personality. I thought to myself – how hard could it be? I’ll give it a go. And then I found out how hard it was,” Sison told Gulf News.
The first challenge she faced – not finding the right job quickly.
“I was staying with friends and taking loans. I didn’t have a bank account, so it was cash loans, which allowed me to just have a hand-to-mouth existence. That was my first year in Dubai,” she said.
Then, came some good news. She found a job that she described as “great” but a salary that was simply not enough to sustain the lifestyle she wanted. Unfortunately, she realised that too late.
“At that time, when they gave me the salary it was twice the pay that I was getting as an entertainer. So I thought: ‘Wow! This is great! This is more than I hoped for.’”
Add to that, the convenience of now having a bank account gave her loan options, and Sison quickly started living beyond her means. At that time, Sison felt she could afford to take a loan and pay it off because she had a stable job.
I was very tempted and took a huge loan and a credit card and used it to go travelling, to get a flat and to be at par with all the other people that I saw in Dubai. – Sharon Sison, Filipina expat “I couldn’t take a loan from the bank back then because my salary was not high enough. What I did was I took a loan from a financial institution,” she said.
In pursuit of the perfect lifestyle “The thing with getting a tax-free income, which was never an option for me earlier, is that your mouth gets bigger than your belly. I was very tempted and took a huge loan and a credit card and used it to go travelling, to get a flat and to be at par with all the other people that I saw in Dubai,” she said.
In her pursuit of the perfect lifestyle, Sison ended up in a situation where her entire salary was being used to pay of the loan installments, with her overall financial dues going over Dh200,000. Soon, she found herself homeless again.
Reality check That was the turning point in Sison’s journey. After a lot of introspection and a complete change of attitude, she decided to cut out all social activities and put a pin on her travel plans.
“Once you have experienced being able to do whatever you want, living in an upscale flat and then finding yourself at one of those bed spaces … that was the lowest of the low for me. It was a moment of awakening for me. I told myself: I don’t want to live this way I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck and I need to sort this out and that’s what I did.”
Time to turnaround Sison was lucky to have employers as well as friends who were supportive. Her manager helped her negotiate through the financial mess.
“I asked advice from my boss and he helped me understand ways to pay off my debt. I spoke to a bank and explained the situation. All of my loans will be paid by September of this year,” she said.
Sison, who is now married, said her then fiancé offered to help her pay off the debt. Sison refused.
“This was something I did recklessly and for me to learn my lesson, I needed to feel the pain. Also, it would be more fulfilling to know you got yourself out of the mess that you got yourself into. This is what I am most proud of.”
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