How Yemeni Families Spend their Money [Archives:1998/34/Business & Economy]

August 24 1998

The family budget of many Yemeni households, especially those with fixed and low incomes, take quite a trick to handle. Limited income growth options coupled with a continuous rise in the cost of living resulted in a marked deterioration in the standard of living. In an attempt to find out more about this issue, Tareq Rashid of Yemen Times went out on the road. He fielded the following questions to random selection of bread-winners:
* How do you spend your salary?
* Do you save any money at all?
* Do you see yourself living on bare necessities or above average?
* Does your wife work and contribute towards the family budget?
Here are sample answers:
1. Sameer Nasser, 31, government employee, receives YR 8,000 a month. He is married to a school teacher. They have one child.
“We live in a rented house, costing us YR 9,000 a month. My wife works at a public school for YR 10,000 a month. She hands over all her salary to me, out of her own free will.
“In addition to the house rent, the electricity bills cost us about YR 800 a month, the water bill comes to YR 500 a month. We pay about YR 1,800 for transport. What is left from our salaries, we spend on food and other household demands.
“Each month we buy a tin of powdered milk at YR 1,400 and baby diapers at YR 1,500. If we get ill, we borrow money for medical treatment from our relatives. I chew qat, but only when I work over-time.
“Due to the hard economic circumstances, we are not ready to have any more children. We cannot save any money at all. Actually what we earn is not enough for the bare necessities.”
2. Ahmed Saleh, 40, a café owner. He is married and has 5 children. His monthly income is YR 20,000.
“I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, so my income barely covers our needs. Fortunately, we own the house in which we live, but still the bills for electricity, water, etc., is more than YR 1,500 a month. The children’s needs, the household demands and other basic expenditures are biting into our budget.
“I give my wife YR 300 daily to buy the household necessities of the day. I give each of my children YR 20 per day as pocket money. Also, I pay for their education expenses, such as stationary and school uniforms. I send YR 1,000 monthly to my parents in the village.
“Sometimes we have to travel to my village, a thing that costs us too much money. Therefore, I save nothing from my income. I think in this country, fixed and low-income people are primary victims of the government reforms.”
3. S.A Yasser, 40, a pilot with a salary of YR 300,000 a month. He is married, has 2 children.
“We live in a villa in Hadda for which I pay YR 25,000. The electricity and water bills cost me about YR 3,000 monthly. We spend almost YR 40,000 every month for food and household needs. My children go to private schools and each one of them gets YR 2,000 per month as pocket money. Generally speaking, I spend YR 20,000 for my children’s education including the school fees, uniforms and books.
“We sometimes buy luxury items and expensive clothes. We travel every year to Europe or to the Far East (possibly because pilots gets free tickets). I keep about YR 50,000 out of my monthly salary to meet with any emergencies. What is left of my salary is deposited in my bank account. I expect to have my own house in the near future.”
4. Ismail Ali, 33, works at a private company for YR 40,000. He is married and has 2 children.
“We live in a modest rented apartment costing YR 12,000. My wife is a school teacher with a salary of YR 12,000 a month, but she does not make any financial contribution towards the family budget. I spend about YR 15,000 per month to meet the daily household needs and YR 3,000 for my children’s requirements. That covers pocket money and school demands. What is left from my salary, we spend on our annual holidays in Aden.”
I talked to Ismail’s wife about the family budget. She said, “I’m not supposed to delve into my purse to pay for the expenditures of the household. My husband must not have control over my financial resources since Islam has guaranteed the right of women to be financially independent.”
5. Mrs. A. Naji, 35, is an engineer with a salary of YR 11,000 per month. She is a widow with 4 children.
“I’m the sole breadwinner for my family since my husband died 6 years ago. Life in Yemen is actually going from bad to worse and what I earn is hardly enough to cover my family’s daily expenses. However, we live in our own house, so we face no problems concerning housing. I pay YR 1,500 monthly for the electricity and water bills. About YR 9,000 is spent each month on food. I work in the afternoons for YR 10,000 so I give my children pocket money. We spend almost YR 1,500 on transport. I save about YR 1,000 a month to meet any unexpected emergencies.”
6. Khaled Aman, 28, a government clerk, earns YR 8,000 a month. He is married, no children.
“In Yemen, the average income now hardly covers the bare necessities. Although I and my wife work, yet our monthly income does not cover our needs for the whole month.
“We pay YR 9,000 monthly for the rent and YR 1,000 for the electricity and water. My wife works for YR 9,000 a month and makes regular contributions by buying food, clothes and cooking utensils. So we are left with about YR 7,000 to live on.
“We do not wish to have children at this present time, because our salaries do not satisfy all our needs. I sometimes have to borrow money from the ministry in which I work, to be deducted from my salary afterwards.”
7. Ismail Al-Ghabry, 37. Journalist. He is married and has five children.
“Life is getting from hard to worse. I get YR 28000 a month. This is hardly enough to cover my basic requirements, especially since I have a handicapped child.
I pay YR 8000 for the house’s rent every month. I also pay YR 1200 for electricity and YR 500 for water every month. In addition, I pay YR 4,000 in fees to a special school for retarded children.
I save nothing. Actually, I end up borrwoing close to the end of the month.
My wife does not work. I am the sole breadwinner. I also have responsibilities towards my old parents, whom I try to help every now and then.
In conclusion, it is clear that most of the middle to low income people of Yemen find it difficult to make ends meet. Food expenses take up about 40% of total income; rent takes up about 30%, transportation about 10%, children’s expenses (education and allowances) another 10%, and the balance goes to other expenditures.
By: Tariq Rashed,
Yemen Times