By Andy Sambidge
UAE official says 250,000 expat workers could arrive by 2020 if growth continues.
Around 250,000 extra foreign workers could arrive in the UAE by 2020 if the country's economic growth pattern continues, Labour minister Saqr Gobash has revealed.
A similar number of UAE nationals are projected to enter the private sector labour market over the next 13 years, he added.
"There are no quick or magic solutions to the foreign workforce issue," the minister told a session of the Federal National Council (FNC) to discuss the policy.
The minister unveiled an initiative by the country's leaders to create a permanent council to tackle the imbalance in the demographic structure and to formulate policies to improve the effectiveness of Emiratisation.
He said it could take months to establish the new body, news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.
And he added that future policies on issuing work permits to foreign workers, which according to the FNC members reached about two millions this year, would be based on requirements of development.
"It's the restructuring of the economy rather than labour procedures that will phase out this problem," he said, calling for more concerted efforts between the local and federal governments on this issue.
Speaking about workers rights, the minister said: "The government doesn't seek to strike a balance in this matter because of international pressure but its move on this direction was guided by its legislations."
FNC members made a series of recommendations which included creating an independent ministry for housing to come up with feasible demographic policies and a strategic plan for increasing Emiratisation.
The recommendations also called for introducing incentive-driven policies to encourage nationals to engage in technical and vocational fields.
A committee will also be set up to study challenges facing the national identity and influence of expat workforce on national security.
Good luck UAE. Your land and your people promise a magnificent future if steered in the right direction. Don't let greed, glamour and glitz get the best of you (as it seems to have done so far) and make the dream a reality. Your leaders have magnificent visions, yet the people don't seem to want to put the effort in to make it happen!
What about the 2,50,000 expatriate workers expected to leave the UAE in the 1sr quarter of 2009 due to the world economy meltdown??
I agree with the statement by the Labour minister in stating that ""It's the restructuring of the economy rather than labour procedures that will phase out this problem," of the imbalance in the demographics. Middle East including UAE currently has been the highest importer of Human labour. What we see of Dubai today has been built today through imported labour. While this is a feasible and easy option for a cash rich state like Dubai and the rest of the Middle East, it comes across as contradictory when the FNC members claim to remove this element of the populace. They seem to be either disconnected with the reality of their own social lives, not realising that every worked around them on the streets, building the tallest building, the largest island and the best metro is not an emirati. The fact that these workers have very little to speak of in terms of their benefits they receive for their hard toiling is another matter. Further, I think the FNC members should just come clean with their intentions on what is the issue that affects this labour state. While the local businessmen find it cheaper and more profitable to run their establishments on cheap imported labour, that includes even the semi-skilled manpower and even professionals, how are they going to effectively remove this workforce from the system when there are no replacements? The only feasible policy would be to shut down growth in Dubai and other M.East states and the expatriate work force would leave. The local population can then fill the gaps. This ofcourse would change the face of the place where about 87% workforce is expatriate. What the FNC must understand that while the expatriate workforce is here for their own future they also contribute by being part of the society and sharing their culture and their skills. A more inclusive approach where both the local population has fair opportunities to compete fairly with the others and fair rights and benefits to the expatriate workforce is in place, then the growth can continue across the region where the local population benefits most through the sponsorship stakes and even owning these enterprises. Just raising alarms on the expatriate population increasing and knee-jerk reactions of imposing fees to make life unbearable for this workforce is not just unfair but even ungrateful coming from the very people who have build their rich enterprises, the state through the toiling of this very workforce. If the workforce start to leave which eventually it will, I hope the local population would be trained up and skilled to take on the running of these enterprises. I think the lawmakers and the council need a reality check.
The only real solution is long-term, generational, in fact. Let us not forget that not only is the entire working-class imported, but the nearly all professional class is too (I'm not counting here "jobs for the boys") workers in the bureaucracies, as these don't produce anything and get in the way of theose who do. This must involve the root and branch reform of education at all levels, including higher education, closing existing institutions and starting anew if need be. It's not as if the UAE doesn't have the money. It must also involve real incentives ("sticks" as well as "carrots") to getting Emiratis working, and an end to the culture of unearned entitlement that so often makes the UAE such an unpleasant place in which to live. Why by no means perfect, the policy of "tawTeen" ("Bahrainicisation") here in Bahrain has been a lot more successful here in Bahrain. It's not at all uncommon to find Bahraini professionals (real professionals, not pen-pushers), and, for that matter, Bahrainis working in relatively menial positions. Bahraini univrsity students generally take their studies far more seriously than their UAE peers, since the existance of not-so-well-of Bahrainis means that the possession of a university certificate can make a real difference. A fair bit still needs to be done attitudinally, but the foundations that will ensure Bahrain remains sustainable in the long run have been established. Not so the UAE, which for far too long has followed a get-rich-quick-never-mind-the-consequences ethos. Education, training and responsible citizenship should become the UAE's highest priority, the current economic crisis provides a superb opportunity for a break from the old "money grows on trees" attitude. If this isn't done the long-term legitimacy of the United ARAB Emirates as currently constituted will come into question, as the demand for oil dwindles, India is no longer a source for cheap labour, and those who've dedicated their lives to the development of the country demand equal rights.