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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

“The sense among policymakers [is] that these are the people with skills they’ll need to build a knowledge economy,” he continues. “They realize they’re far too dependent on these un-skilled workers, simple industry and construction, simple labor inputs. They’re trying to move towards building up that skilled services sector.”

As part of that strategy, the Dubai government also plans to whittle down the number of unskilled laborers in the emirate from 75 to 70 percent of the workforce by 2015. And unskilled laborers may very well be coming to the UAE in smaller numbers soon – but not for the reasons the government had hoped.

In the meantime, as the local real estate industry loses traction, rights  groups are wondering what will happen to the migrant laborers who are vanishing from Dubai’s roads along with their white Tata buses. “Nothing will be put in place to help unskilled workers cope with the situation,” says Nicholas McGeeehan, founder of UAE workers’ rights group Mafiwasta. “A lot of companies won’t provide transport home and you’ll be left with a huge problem of migrant workers stuck in the country and classified as illegal.”

That could be a nightmare scenario for the image-conscious emirate, as well as for those who would find themselves stranded. Whether it comes to pass or not, workers here look destined for tougher times – regardless of the size of their salary. And for the moment, the promise of a better life from the Gulf’s renowned city of opportunity is sounding a little less certain.

First seen in Trends magazine.

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