By Andy Sambidge
Arabian Business poll reveals strong objections to proposal to restrict expats in Gulf region.
A controversial plan to limit how long expatriates can live in the Gulf has been condemned by Arabian Business readers.
A huge majority of people who took part in our online poll on Monday believes the proposal would have grave ramifications for the Gulf countries.
We ran the poll after news that labour ministers had submitted a proposal to the GCC Council of Ministers to bring the cap into force.
Labour ministers sparked outcry among expatriates last year when the plan to limit unskilled and semi-skilled workers to six years in any one Gulf state was first announced.
The final decision on the cap was supposed to be made by Gulf leaders at last year's GCC summit in Doha, but was deferred until this year's summit in Muscat.
But local readers have called on Gulf leaders to drop the idea with more than 86 percent of respondents saying they thought it would harm local economies.
Of those, 50 percent said GCC countries would be damaged in the long run because of the role expats play in local industries.
And a further 36 percent urged local GCC officials to rethink because the region was still desperately short of skilled workers and labourers.
Advocates of the cap say it is necessary to stop the erosion of local culture and to stem soaring unemployment among nationals, while opponents accuse ministers of being shortsighted and misguided, claiming the move could have dire consequences for the region's economies.
In our poll, only five percent thought the cap was a good move and should be applied to all expats irrelevant of skills and nationality.
A further nine percent agreed the cap proposal was of benefit to the Gulf countries but only if it applied to low skilled people only.
Surely rather than a cap on time it would be better and less disruptive to local culture to have less labour turnover so that people learn to live by local norms, constant change is what is eroding the the culture - the pride and loyalty to the country of those who have worked long term, for example in Dubai, compared with those who come only for 2-3 year projects is quite evident. In a fast evolving economy some stability of population has much to commend it. A cynic might feel that is is just a back door way of evicting rent protected tenants to find excuses to be able to periodically raise rents substantially with every change of tenant. Jobs for local will be generated by strong profitable companies. Undermining skills base and adding unnecessary visa complexity and fees will hinder company growth. Creating more jobs in the Ministry of Labour is the wrong approach to that problem.
The news media have been reporting regularly on the desire to provide more employment opportunities to GCC citizens and reduce over time their dependence on guest/expat workers and professionals. Let us not forget the experience in the western countries over time. They started with encouraging expat workers in their respective countries to back fill labour and now professional talent shortages. The result is that they are ever more dependent on them than ever before. In the GCC there is a very small minority of local people who will toil in the harsh climatic conditions to deliver the growth and progress. By this I mean it is the guest workers who are given their best years to ensuring the economic and infrastructure development in the GCC. It is very unlikely that the GCC countries will be able to dispense with these guest workers even if labour rules are implemented to the contrary. The rest is for the powers that be to assess and do what is needed.
If the gulf limits unskilled labourers then who is going to build your buildings or any kind of work as such if no work no business, no business no money?
I am one of those who think that "the cap was a good move and should be applied to all expats irrelevant of skills and nationality". How many of us feel stuck in a country that is more and more unwelcoming to expats, but are just too afraid to leave and start a (potentially much better) life in another country? A cap might be a good kick for all of us.
I totally support this time limit for expats due to the problems they have been creating in the recent years. For example, what happened in UAE and Kuwait is an outstanding proof that the unskilled workers should not be allowed to stay more than five years. For those who are saying that we need the unskilled workers to build our buildings, I believe it is time to have our national do it. We the nationals have been suffering from the unemployment for so long simply because most of the jobs are being taken by the low-paid immigrants. It is simply about time!