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The Emirati-expat equation

The Emirati-expat equation

A well thought out strategy is needed to solve the current Emirati-minority status, says Eva Fernandes. And a dose of realism, too.

January 26, 2011 4:59 by

The myth of the Emirati is something many expats are familiar with, and I, being a second generation expat, am particularly familiar with. The myth, for those who are new to the country, is that the country is home to a native population called Emiratis: you don’t know where they live, which schools their children go to, and you don’t even know which mosques they frequent: all you do know is that they count for an underwhelming percentage of the UAE population and are active in government positions.

Having grown up in Dubai, it should come as no surprise to most expats to know that, by the time I was sixteen (and having lived in the Emirates my whole life) I didn’t personally know a single Emirati. Where was I to meet them? Taught at a British curricular school by Italian nuns and South Asian teaches, my class mates were a slice of old Dubai: Filipinos, expatriate Arabs (mainly Egyptians), Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and a lot of Indians.

It was only when I began studying in a local university and held a part time job – in which capacity I interacted on a daily basis with many Emiratis – that the myth finally became my reality. Several years later, I no longer resort to wonder at the mention of these mythical folk. In fact, I am happy to say some of my closest friends are Emirati; though quite probably the same can’t be said by most other expats.

The Emirati population, or lack there-of, is a serious issue, one that is keenly felt by the government. It is, of course, in the government’s interest to see more Emiratis in the workforce and in the population as a whole. With there being just under 900,000 Emiratis in the UAE, the ‘locals’ make up a rather underwhelming 13.3 percent of the population. So over the years, the government has introduced a variety of Emiratisation measures, which Kipp has reported on.

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1 Comment

  1. Aida Al Busaidy on January 27, 2011 2:31 pm

    I don’t think you understand what the Govt was talking about when they meant increasing the Emirati population to 40%. There is a good percentage of “bidouns” – hope you’ve heard of this term. People who basically, migrated or immigrated decades ago to this region with no documentation as they fled from their countries or were either doing business in this region and liked the place and stayed. Sadly, when the federation came about they never became Emiratized and now the Govt is working on fixing that and slowly bidouns are getting Emiratized.
    The 2nd group comes from the Rulers Court or from a Sheikhs order and this is only limited to specific groups and nationalities and of course the 3rd are people who have contributed to being the building blocks of the society and have been here for years such as Yemenis who work in the Army or Police force and have served over 25 years.
    I for one would want to maintain my culture, heritage, language and most importantly my religion so I’m sure the Govt wants to Emiratize people who at least speak Arabic and are Muslims -not that I have anything against others but these in addition to service should be considered when Emiratization.


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