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Thu 3 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

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Homeward bound

Better prospects in their native countries could be tempting many of the UAE's Indian staff back home.

Better prospects in their native countries could be tempting many of the UAE's Indian staff back home.

Indian workers in the food and beverage industry are returning home, drawn by the promise of higher wages and preferable living conditions, according to industry professionals.

"It is a wage issue. There's an economic movement in India that has given those workers an opportunity to go home and earn more money while getting to be with their friends and family," explained human resources regional director for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Middle East, David Leman.

"High inflation in markets like Dubai means that people tend to move more quickly because there's always another job on the other side of the fence that's paying a little bit more.

The failure of wages in the F&B sector to keep up with the rocketing rate of inflation and cost of living in the UAE - combined with the danger of being tied in to a lengthy contract, - were the root causes behind this talent-poaching, according to the Renaissance Dubai Hotel's F&B director Hassan Yazbek. He added that Indian workers were now less keen to move abroad in the first place.

"We used to get most of our staff from India, but as well as Indian companies recruiting Indian nationals from Dubai back to India, since the economy has become more favourable over the last two years, talent is staying back," he said.

"Indian workers endure a lot of hardship coming to Dubai, being away from their families and the dollar value being so weak, so people don't want to take the risk."

All in all, the situation was making the already considerable challenge of finding and keeping a skilled and experienced workforce more difficult Yazbek explained.

"The piece of the pie is getting smaller and smaller in terms of recruitment and retaining talent, as everyone is trying to compete from the same staff pool. We've got another 19 properties coming online in the next two years, so it is going to be a challenge.

The Marriott Group would be altering its recruiting strategies to target a more diverse selection of countries, said Yazbek. It would be focusing on untapped markets to secure new employees for these upcoming projects.

"We're trying to diversify our recruitment market at the moment. It looks like we've depleted the Asian market [so] we're looking at South America, South and North Africa, Algeria and Morocco. These markets are very promising and our aim is to retain the best staff," he said.

Starwood's Leman claimed that the shifting recruitment landscape would prove to be a good thing for the F&B industry.

"Indian staff being tempted by the work opportunities at home is certainly a noticeable trend at the moment but I wouldn't say it's significantly problematic. It makes us work harder," he said.

"We have to get better at attracting the right talent in the first place and get better at retaining staff.

"We may need to create a better wage and benefits structure, although if people are genuinely happy in their job then they will stay," he concluded.

Exit stationsMore than 70% of Indian workers responding to the ArabianBusiness.com online Salary Survey 2008 said that they were likely to return home this year.

The study, which surveyed staff currently employed in various industry sectors in the UAE, indicated that the majority of Indian employees took a pay cut last year and were highly concerned about inflation. They said they felt driven to leave by poor salaries and the rising cost of living.

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