The welfare queens of Ramadan

ABID KATIB/AFP/Getty Images Residents of Lahore, Pakistan, have witnessed a marked increase in the number of beggars in the streets, the Gulf News reports. Apparently, many of  these people aren’t normally beggars, but are banking on increased generosity during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting: There is another tale of a beggar who lives in ...

599234_070921_ramadan_05.jpg
599234_070921_ramadan_05.jpg
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: A Muslim gives money to a beggar after the Friday prayer in front of the East London Mosque, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan October 22, 2004 in London, England. Muslims throughout the world are celebrating Ramadan observing fast from dawn till dusk for 30 days. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

ABID KATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Residents of Lahore, Pakistan, have witnessed a marked increase in the number of beggars in the streets, the Gulf News reports. Apparently, many of  these people aren't normally beggars, but are banking on increased generosity during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting:

There is another tale of a beggar who lives in a plush mansion and employs three or four domestic servants. An [sic] young woman, who thought she was marrying a respectable businessman, allegedly discovered that his real trade was beggary. Still another beggar is known to have three sons who are all educated and hold lucrative jobs in the US.

ABID KATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Residents of Lahore, Pakistan, have witnessed a marked increase in the number of beggars in the streets, the Gulf News reports. Apparently, many of  these people aren’t normally beggars, but are banking on increased generosity during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting:

There is another tale of a beggar who lives in a plush mansion and employs three or four domestic servants. An [sic] young woman, who thought she was marrying a respectable businessman, allegedly discovered that his real trade was beggary. Still another beggar is known to have three sons who are all educated and hold lucrative jobs in the US.

Beggars in Lahore can earn more than 20,000 rupees a month, by some estimates—a far cry more than the roughly 4,600 rupees per month people earn on average in Pakistan.

Lucrative begging is a phenomenon that happens all over the world. Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates also saw an increase in the number of beggars during Ramadan a while ago—including one man on a visit visa who was caught by police carrying more than $2,000. Nor is it solely a Ramadan phenomenon. Some beggars in Delhi in India have also turned panhandling into a lucrative profession. Out of the 5,000 or so beggars surveyed on the streets by Delhi University’s Social Work Department this year, four held postgraduate degrees and begged on weekends to supplement their salaries, six held college degrees, and 796 had studied to the secondary level. In Mumbai, the city’s 300,000 beggars collectively earn an estimated Rs180 crore (more than $45 million) a year. Another study demonstrated that it is far more profitable for poor Cambodians to beg in Bangkok than work a regular job in Cambodia or work legally in Bangkok, where the work permit, travel, rent, and other expenses add up to more than the wages. In Jakarta, Indonesia, too, begging pays off: “I earn Rp30,000 a day from begging. I would not get that much if I was still selling vegetables,” says one female beggar. And even in the United States, there are “affluent beggars” roaming the streets.

No doubt many if not most beggars face dire poverty, but perhaps it’s worth thinking twice before forking over your hard-earned money. The risk is that too many people will be tempted to panhandle rather than get jobs. So your pocket change may just be better directed toward things like job-training, education, or rehabilitation programs.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.