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Idle hands, Part II

Idle hands, Part II

For the UAE’s most populous emirate, avoiding recession may mean preventing an exodus of human as well as financial capital, Part II.

February 18, 2009 1:19 by

To deal with that security challenge, labor policy has maximized government and employer control over the workforce. Foreign employees are anchored to their company through the Kafala (sponsorship) system. And job mobility is restricted to the point that expatriates sometimes flee the emirates to get their work visa cancelled, only to return for a new position at another firm. Relaxing those rules is a politically charged issue. But as the emirate’s labor pool contracts, it will likely become a pressing one.

Loosening labor laws for the upper end of the job market would also fit with Dubai’s long-term goals. By 2015, the emirate wants to boost the proportion of skilled workers from 20 to 25 percent of its labor pool, so that it can build up local knowledge-intensive industries. According to Dyer, that may mean enhancing the labor rights of well-educated expatriates.

“They need to find a way to encourage people to stay here and help build the skills side of the equation,” he says. “Giving skilled workers more flexibility  … encouraging them to view Dubai or the GCC in general as a place to stay and build their career, as opposed to a temporary place to work for a couple years.”

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