Mohamed Ali, Amina and Hichem: 1023 dinars per month
Saba Sbouai - 13/02/2015
Mohamed Ali and Amina are a young couple in their thirties, living in Manouba together with their son. Mohammed Ali is a professor of informatics, Amina used to work as a lab technician, but has quitted her job a year ago, a few months before the birth of Hichem. They are happy, and they enjoy their family life as they can, but they admit that their financial situation is really critical. Here is a summary of their monthly income and expenses:
Mohamed Ali and Amina were married 2.5 years ago. Born in the center of the country, it was their mothers, who are cousins, that introduced them. Amina has stopped working when she got pregnant, because of the harmful products used in the laboratory.
Before giving birth, she had put aside some money selling a bracelet and saving on the “Amal” unemployment benefits. In total 1200 dinars, just over 500 euros, in anticipation of the baby’s arrival. The couple, although parsimonious, gets along with difficulties.
For Mohamed Ali, the revolution has had a major impact on the prices of basic consumer goods, and this is felt at the end of the month. The arrival of the baby deprived them of one salary, and this “hole” has not been bridged.
“Normally, with the birth of my son, I would have begun to receive family allowances: 7 dinars (about 3 euros) per month! A pack of diapers costs 8 dinars… But to get the allowance I had to submit all the documentation and go to an administrative office far away: at the end I would have spent the subsidy for petrol. So I let it go”, explains Mohamed Ali.
And as it may be seen, if you make the accounts, the end of the month is always difficult.
The Grey Zone
“At first I could not understand how the money was actually spent. Then one day we had a great discussion and we decided to manage the money together. I became aware of the reality, and I wondered how Mohammed Ali had done until then. I began to divide the money in envelopes for each type of expense: to use the air conditioner longer, for special purchases...”says Amina.
“We are making somersaults all the time, but at the end of the month we have always 300-350 dinars of bank overdrafts more than the previous month. At the beginning of the month, I go to withdraw the maximum amount allowed, and I always end up using also the overdraft. Before the revolution, the overdraft amounted to 70-80 dinars, not more”, recalls Mohamed Ali.
As the child grows gradually, the costs get higher too: he needs more food, needs more care, clothes… Mohamme Ali and Amina are therefore looking for solutions to meet their needs.
Amina thinks of going back to work now that the child is more than one year old. They need another paycheck to be able to live with a little more comfort. Amina would like to have a second child, also not to spread the maternity leave over several years, resulting in prolonged inactivity.
The couple is registered at the employment office to try to go abroad a few years for work. According to them, it is the only solution that would allow them to put aside some money to buy a house, or at least a plot of land, and thus seek to be independent one day, at least independent from the rent.
“Leaving, and trying to come back with a nice sum, would allow us to repay the loan that we took for our wedding. We can also take another home loan without problem” Amina hopes.
Like many young people, they want to try their chance in a Gulf country, but they are waiting for an offer with good conditions: accommodation included, and with good pay. “Otherwise I will start to give private lessons to try to earn some money, but for this I should look for students elsewhere, because it is forbidden to give private lessons to one’s own students”, says Mohamed Ali.
“Nowadays, the middle class are the engineers”
How does he see his place in the society? Mohamed Ali replies that before the revolution he was convinced that the teacher was part of the middle class and that his income would serve as a reference for the state. Today, however, according to him, things have changed: “Each month I have a bank overdraft equal to almost half of my salary. Today, the middle class are the engineers.”