Idle hands, Part I
For Dubai, avoiding recession may mean preventing an exodus of human as well as financial capital, Part I.
February 17, 2009 1:31 by Ian Munroe
Something’s missing from this city’s freeways. The unremitting caravan of transport trucks on Emirates road, a major artery connecting the world’s largest manmade port in nearby Jebel Ali to many of the country’s 3,000-plus construction sites, has been interrupted. And encounters with the once ubiquitous white Tata bus, bars on its windows, ferrying scores of migrant laborers to and from work, have become sporadic.
It’s impossible to say how many workers have lost their jobs here since the financial crisis and global recession made their unwelcome presence felt along the Gulf. But if you want to know how the UAE’s workers are faring, the real estate industry is a good place to start. According to numbers from the International Monetary Fund and SICO Research, in 2007, half of the UAE’s workforce held jobs either in construction or in real estate.
Over the last few months, a number of major contractors, realty firms and developers have admitted to instituting “retrenchments” and “redundancies” – including Dubai’s two big government-affiliated master developers. Emaar Properties, creator of the 800-meter Burj Dubai skyscraper, has said it will adjust its recruitment strategy to suit the worsening business climate. Nakheel Properties, developer of outlandish projects as the palm- and world-shaped islands, has cut at least 500 personnel so far. And Dubai Properties Group, owned by Dubai’s ruler, says it has slashed 600 positions.