Gulf states may look to reduce number of expat workers

The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Labour has told a key workshop that the Gulf states need to become less reliant on expat workers.

UAE-construction-workersSpeaking on the opening day of a two-day regional workshop on labour admission policies in GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) countries, Saqr Ghobash stated that policies need to be developed to curb the numbers of overseas workers in order to make room for local talent.

“In the past, we needed foreign labour to develop the foundation and infrastructure of our nations,” Ghobash said. “However, the policies of the past must stop and a new model must be implemented for attracting specific foreign workers to encourage the creation of jobs for the sons and daughters of the nation,” he added.

Workforces in many GCC countries are made up of some of the largest proportion of expats workers in the world. Roughly 88 per cent of the UAE’s entire workforce is made up of expats, while Qatar (approximately 85 per cent), Kuwait (around 68 per cent) and Bahrain (just over 50 per cent) also have sizable expat workforces.

Other speakers at the conference also revealed their wish to see more local workers being trained to enter the workforce. “Ultimately, we will find success in our economic sector by reforming the labour market policies and by developing skills already present within these industries in a sustainable way for the future,” said Aqeel Ahmed Al Jassim, the director general of the executive bureau of the GCC Council. Meanwhile Froilan Malit Jr, the director of labour research at the International Gulf Organisation, added: “Employers want to improve the skills of, for example, constructions workers so that it not only allows for that worker to become better trained but it also reduces the amount of labourers needed in the region.”

However, in spite of their desire to see fewer expats and more locals in the workforce, all of the day’s speakers also reiterated how important expat workers have been, and will continue to be, to the region’s economy.