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Who am I?

Who am I?

Emirati culture is under threat – and news that UAE nationals will soon account for just 13.3 percent of the population could make this identity crisis more severe.

January 25, 2010 1:23 by

There have been several efforts to maintain Emirati identity. For example, 2008 was declared the year of national identity by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Several conferences were held to highlight the issue.

At a Labor Market Committee meeting in April 2007, Ali bin Abdullah al-Kaabi, the then UAE Minister of Labor, announced an ambitious plan to boost the proportion of national citizens. “I want UAE nationals to be the biggest segment in the country,” he said, adding that his ministry would draft a strategy to achieve this by 2015.

But the problem of maintaining the national identity amidst a booming expatriate population is not restricted to the UAE; in 2008, labor ministers from across the GCC debated having a five or six year cap on foreign workers’ residency permits. The plan, targeting unskilled and semi-skilled workers, was reportedly aimed at stopping the erosion of local culture and reducing the soaring unemployment among nationals.

While Kipp is uncertain how construction laborers and unskilled workers are “eroding local culture”, it also seems unrealistic to expect 15 percent of a country’s population to become its majority. Maintaining a so-called “national identity” while being influenced by numerous cultures and identities from across the world might be a challenge. But does the answer really lie in trying to chase out the unskilled expatriate workers from the country?

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