The administrative arm of Abu Dhabi's top government department, the General Secretariat of the Executive Council (GSEC), has dismissed most of its expatriate employees, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
It was not clear exactly how many employees were affected, but the sources said the number could be around 40-70 people. The sources declined to be named because the decision has not been officially announced.
The GSEC declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest emirate in the United Arab Emirates; the GSEC is the administrative body which develops and executes Abu Dhabi's strategic plans and policies.
Many countries in the Gulf, which have relatively small populations of local citizens, rely heavily on expatriates to fill large parts of their bureaucracies as well as key posts in national airlines, banks and the media industry.
But there is growing political pressure in many places to reduce the expatriate workforce in favour of employing locals, in order to reduce unemployment.
The prime minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, said earlier this year that finding jobs for UAE citizens was one of the government's top priorities. The government has estimated the jobless rate among locals at 14 percent.
The sources told Reuters that the Abu Dhabi government had offered severance benefits to dismissed employees.