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Tue 23 Oct 2007 01:52 PM

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Construction, hospitality workers to be hit by cap

Unskilled workers in these sectors face being forced out of GCC if proposal passed.

Expatriates working in the construction, tourism and hospitality, and service sectors face the prospect of being forced out of the Gulf under the controversial plans to put a cap on how long unskilled workers can live in the GCC, according to a UAE government official.

"The main sector which will be targeted is the construction but other sectors, which do not need skilled labourers, such as the tourism and hospitality and service sectors will also be affected by the cap," said Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, assistant undersecretary at the Labour Ministry, quoted UAE daily Gulf News on Tuesday.

Al Zahmi said the proposed six-year residency cap would target expat workers in the Gulf with below secondary school level education.

The region's businesses have criticised the plans, which they fear will force them to give up staff that they have spend time and money training after only a few years.

The plans took a step closer on Monday when the UAE labour minister said the Emirates will back the proposal.

Speaking in the run-up to a meeting of GCC labour ministers in Riyadh next month, Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi said the issue will be top of the agenda.

The proposed cap was first announced by Bahrain Labour Minister Majeed Al-Alawi at the beginning of this month and will be discussed at the upcoming GCC Summit in Doha at the end of the year.

Al-Alawi said at the time the cap was necessary to stop the erosion of local culture and to stem soaring unemployment among nationals.

His remarks have sparked a firestorm, with expatriates from across the Gulf accusing the minister's plans of being shortsighted and misguided and claiming the move could have dire consequences for the region's economies.

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