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Thu 4 Feb 2010 08:53 AM

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Gulf facing labour market challenge - minister

Region must change to maintain growth and provide jobs for nationals.

Gulf facing labour market challenge - minister
PROBLEM: The UAEs Labour Minister says that the Gulf has relied for too long on investing in sectors that need large numbers of expat workers.

The UAE’s Minister of Labour has warned that the Gulf must change its development pattern if it is to maintain sustainable growth, and provide employment for its people.

In a paper presented at the 15th Annual Conference of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), HE Saqr Ghobash warned that unless faults in the current development pattern are fixed, the challenges posed by nationalisation of the GCC labour market would always be questioned.

According to news agency WAM, he explained that the GCC development pattern relied on investing in sectors that need large numbers of expatriate labour, and that therefore the annual rate of recruiting expatriates went up to 31% in the UAE and 17.8% in Bahrain.

"The majority of those are unskilled labourers. and the rate of recruitment exceeded growth rates of real national GDP, something which negatively affected the sustainability of growth as well as job opportunities for nationals of GCC countries," said Ghobash, who is also chairman of the National Media Council.

GCC nationals account for just 0.4 % of the workforce in the UAE and for as high as 20% in Bahrain, WAM said.

According to Ghobash, demand on low-wage jobs which require, but do not form incentives for, unskilled labourers were at the focus of the private sector in GCC countries. "These jobs, generated by the current economic development pattern, are not sought after by GCC nationals," the agency reported him as saying.