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Tue 10 Nov 2009 12:39 PM

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UAE sets up council to tackle demographic issues

PM Sheikh Mohammed approves plan for new federal body to review demographic policies.

The Prime Minister of the UAE has approved a resolution to establish a new council to look into issues related to the UAE's demographic profile.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, also Dubai ruler, gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to the Federal Demographic Council, which will be chaired by Lt General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior and Deputy PM.

The Emiratisation Council will be annexed to the new body, news agency WAM reported.

It reported that the council will work to strike a balance in the demographic structure in the country, and "deepen the spirit of loyalty of UAE citizens to their leadership and homeland".

It will review demographic policies in an effort to develop new strategies and initiatives through talks with other stakeholders.

According to latest studies, Emiratis make up 16.5 percent of the UAE's population.

The figures, based on two research projects carried out on visa registration and the number of people employed in the country, revealed that the expat population in the UAE was rapidly increasing with the largest group made up of Indians, with 1.75 million currently residing in the country.

The second largest group was from Pakistan, with about 1.25 million while roughly 500,000 Bangladeshis live in the UAE.

Members of other Asian communities, including China, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Afghanistan and Iran make up approximately one million of the total population, the research showed.

Western expatriates, from Europe, Australia, Northern Africa, Africa and Latin America make up 500,000 of the UAE population.

The new council will also gather information, conduct demographic studies and research and establish a database on the demographic breakdown of the UAE.

It will also coordinate with departments in other emirates to ensure a common policy for "reaching solutions to demographic issues" and for "maintaining harmony between the sustainable development and demographic policies".

Last month, the former director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said the Gulf’s sprawling migrant workforce was potentially the biggest issue facing the region today.

Mike Moore, a former prime minister of New Zealand, warned that the sheer number of expatriates residing in the oil-rich Gulf states was tantamount to colonisation.

“The fundamental issue here is; where in history have local people been so overwhelmed by expats? In the past, we’ve called it colonisation. It’s how my country was founded,” he said.

The GCC is dependent on imported labour, with an estimated 13 million foreign workers residing in its six states and comprising about 37 percent of the population. In Dubai, expats outnumber citizens by five to one.

Moore admitted there was no ready solution to the demographic imbalance, but said the region’s monarchies acted as a buffer against the foreign workforce.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

SR 10 years ago

Situation may not look that bad when you discount all the construction sector employees / workers who will obviously be repatriated once construction work is completed! I am not an Arab national, but I feel the Government should look at granting citizenship to Arab / GCC nationals as well.

Realist 10 years ago

No mention of the Arab expats at all? BTW, no mention of the North Americans or South Africans, either? If the manual contract labour force is removed from those numbers, the ratios are very different. This is a serious issue that the citizens of this country are worried about, so please AB, check the numbers before you publish.

Abdulrahman 10 years ago

The economic policy makers in our GCC states have all got wrong! They should have not invested oil revenues in labor intensive industries except in strategicly vital ones namely agriculture and defense. Let the native people of the land develop infrastrucure gradually with minimum foreigh workforce. Spend the oil revenus in diversified investments like capital markets. We would heve had much higher standards of living, preserve our environment and mostly secured our homelands. ( With all respect to all expats in the gulf)

Hamid 10 years ago

forcing employers to hire locals is not a solution. Any employer is a businessman, who needs have skilled, high integrity, productive, and hard working employee, in order to remain profitable and competitive. The employer first choice is to hire somebody locally, since the potential employee credentials can be more easily verified and cheaper to hire them locally. So instead of forcing the employers, ther must be system in place to make the employer want to hire. This is the only long term solution. Government can make the local work force more attractive by first, investing in education, culture, work ethics 2) Provide hands on training, by implementing co-op (meaning subsidizing the period of employment, for an employee, until enough skill and credential earned that after the co-op period no subsidy be required). If the salaries are not still attractive to qualified and skilled employees, then the only solution to either accept the pay rate or get government subsidy for full period of employment.