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The Foreign Labour Threats on the UAE Essay

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Introduction

Oil price remained high in the second part of the twentieth century. The start of the new millennium was also characterised by high prices for this natural resource that has been one of the primary products of the UAE economy. This has led to the unprecedented economic growth of the country.

Thus, the country’s GDP between 2000 and 2009 grew at an annual rate of over 6%.1 This economic development has resulted in a considerable labour immigration.

Thus, in the 2010s, more than 90% of the workforce was foreign.2 Immigration in the UAE is quite specific as it involves expatriates who get considerable wages and low-paid workers who are mainly involved in such spheres as household work, services and construction. It is necessary to note that this kind of immigration poses economic, political, national security, social and cultural threats.

Analysis of the Threats

Economic Threats

First, it is necessary to stress that all the threats mentioned are closely connected. Some political decisions lead to particular economic, social and cultural issues as well as problems concerning national security. As has been mentioned above, the UAE has been experiencing a steady economic growth. This growth was interrupted by the financial crisis of 2008, but the country soon recovered from the aftermaths of the global financial constraints.

The UAE is the 30th largest economy in the world, and it is the leading economy among Arab countries with the GDP of more than $400 billion.3 However, the country’s economy largely depends on the production of oil. It is noteworthy that attempts to diversify its economy have been successful and the GDP growth in the non-oil sector was 5.4% in 2013.4

The majority of working people are involved in the oil sector, which poses some threats in the long run. Decreasing oil prices lead to bankruptcy of some oil producers and many people lose their jobs, which can become a significant economic issue. As for the long-term consequences of the reliance on the foreign labour force, the UAE may soon have no qualified nationals. The country will have to face the issue of unemployment of Emirati people.

Political Threats

Apart from economic threats, the use of foreign labour can have an adverse impact on the political development of the country. The newcomers comprise the majority of the workforce in many sectors of the economy and they affect the development of policies through protests as well as the influence of other countries and international organisations.

Thus, various strikes take place in the largest emirates of the country. The strike of construction workers in Dubai involved almost 30,000 workers of one of the major construction companies Arabtec.5 Such protests lead to the development of new policies. For instance, the government of the country has announced labour reforms.

One of the primary steps that will be undertaken is the change of the so-called “kafala”.6 The kafala system is a set of norms concerning entry, residence and changing jobs of immigrant workers. Thus, a foreign worker has to obtain permission from his employer to quit the job. The reform will ensure workers’ right to terminate their contract and find another employment.

This reform is partly due to the influence of other countries that want to make their citizens’ working conditions similar to those accepted globally. International organisations also focus on human rights and have a particular effect on political decisions made in the UAE. It is also necessary to note the country also tries to develop policies to make its economic environment favourable and attractive for domestic as well as foreign investors.

Apparently, the UAE’s political life is affected by the foreign workforce and this influence can be negative. It can result in enactment of laws that will have an adverse impact on the economic and social life of Emiratis. Thus, some groups can obtain privileges, which can lead to social unrest and imbalance in the society.

Development of more favourable conditions for expatriates may discourage companies to hire nationals, which will have negative effects for the country in the long run as it will have no qualified domestic employees. Of course, the focus on “external agendas” can put the system of governance under certain risk and the reliance on foreign labour can undermine the country’s economy and its national security.7

National Security

As for the country’s national security, foreign labour force can pose a number of serious threats. One of these threats is associated with terrorism and extremism. Many foreign workers coming from different countries may fall under extremists’ influence. Terrorists and extremists can come to the UAE as foreign workers and start developing a terroristic network. This all can result in terroristic attacks, assassinations and overall unrest in the country.

As has been mentioned above, social disparities and privileges for some groups of people can also lead to social unrest and various protest activities.8 This social instability can lead to economic and political instability as well. The government can even lose control over the situation. Finally, social instability caused by unemployment can result in the increase in the rate of crimes or even development of organised crime.

Social Threats

When it comes to social threats, development of social disparities is the most significant issue that can arise. As has been mentioned above, the country’s reliance on the oil production can lead to a great rate of unemployment as the oil price is decreasing. This, in its turn, will result in protests and development of extremist ideas. Underprivileged groups will find themselves in the opposition to more privileged ones.

Lack of education and experience often makes Emiratis unfit to work in many spheres. Employers, both nationals and external, are more willing to hire high-profile foreign professionals. This leads to the increase of unemployment among Emiratis, and social disparities among nationals also occur. Furthermore, the immigration resulted in a significant gender imbalance as workers employed in one of the central sectors of the economy (construction) are males. This trend leads to abuse of females and associated crimes.

Cultural Threats

Some of the most straightforward threats are cultural as the change in the national composition of the population of the UAE may lead to the change in the cultural life of the society.

Newcomers form subgroups and influence the way of life of Emirati people. Foreigners celebrate their holidays and follow their traditions. The mix of cultures is inevitable due to mixed marriages as well. As has been mentioned above, the UAE is committed to creating a favourable atmosphere for foreign workers. Thus, the old policies and traditions (kafala) are abandoned.

For many Emirati people, the increasing number of working females seems unacceptable, though this is a global trend and women become empowered all over the world. Family patterns are also slowly changing.9 Nuclear families become more widespread. In the future, other traditions may also seem outdated. They can be replaced by traditions of other nations as their representatives become numerous in the UAE.

Recommendations

In the view of these threats, the Emirati government can consider the development of a comprehensive policy aimed at addressing these issues. Thus, the labour market should be regulated quite strictly and it should also be similar to the international norms. This will create a favourable atmosphere for the foreign workforce. This will also reduce the social tension that is increasing. Workers’ rights will be safeguarded and people will be satisfied with their working conditions and their overall life in the country.

It will also positively affect the development of national labour force. Emirati employees will gain the corresponding education and will be ready to compete with expatriates. The policy should, hence, involve certain activities aimed at the development of the system of education. Young Emirati people (both males and females) should be encouraged to gain secondary and higher education.

The new norms should also address cultural issues. The government should try to integrate newcomers into the Emirati society. Foreign workers should attend some training courses that will focus on the language (if necessary) and cultural peculiarities of the country. The policy should ensure foreigners’ rights to follow their traditions but assimilation should be the focus of decision makers.

Conclusion

On balance, it is possible to note that the foreign workforce is associated with a number of economic, political, social, national security and cultural threats. However, all these issues can be addressed through the implementation of a comprehensive policy. The primary focus of the new norms will be insurance of workers’ rights and their integration into the Emirati society.

Reference List

Lori, Noora. “National Security and the Management of Migrant Labor: A Case Study of the United Arab Emirates.” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 20, no. 3-4 (2011): 315-337.

Kanna, Ahmed. “A Politics of Non-Recognition? Biopolitics of Arab Gulf Worker Protests in the Year of Uprisings.” A Journal for and about Social Movements 4, no. 1 (2012): 146-164.

”, 2015. Web.

Pappe, Ilan. The Modern Middle East: A Social and Cultural History. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.

Sönmez, Sevil, Yorghos Apostopoulos, Diane Tran, and Shantyana Rentrope. “Health and Human Rights Journal 13, no. 2 (2013). Web.

. Web.

Footnotes

Sevil Sönmez, Yorghos Apostopoulos, Diane Tran, and Shantyana Rentrope, “Human Rights and Health Disparities for Migrant workers in the UAE,” Health and Human Rights Journal 13, no. 2 (2013).

Noora Lori, “National Security and the Management of Migrant Labor: A Case Study of the United Arab Emirates,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 20, no. 3-4 (2011), 318.

“Overseas Business Risk – United Arab Emirates,”www.gov.uk, last modified 2015.

“Overseas Business Risk – United Arab Emirates,”www.gov.uk, last modified 2015.

Ahmed Kanna, “A Politics of Non-Recognition? Biopolitics of Arab Gulf Worker Protests in the Year of Uprisings,” A Journal for and about Social Movements 4, no. 1 (2012), 152.

“UAE Announces Labour Reforms to Protect Foreign Workers”.

Ilan Pappe, The Modern Middle East: A Social and Cultural History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014), 57.

Ahmed Kanna, “A Politics of Non-Recognition? Biopolitics of Arab Gulf Worker Protests in the Year of Uprisings,” A Journal for and about Social Movements 4, no. 1 (2012), 152.

Noora Lori, “National Security and the Management of Migrant Labor: A Case Study of the United Arab Emirates,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 20, no. 3-4 (2011), 320.

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