UAE aims to lessen reliance on Asian workers

CEAT Kelani Holdings Managing Director Ravi Dadlani (right) and Lanka Ashok Leyland CEO Umesh Gautham exchange the OEM agreement

DUBAI, Nov 20, 2006 (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) president announced plans to gradually replace Asian workers with nationals to redress the demographic imbalance in his country, in a newspaper interview Monday.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nayhan told London-based Asharq Al-Awsat he was aware of “the seriousness of the imbalance” in the oil-rich Gulf state where foreigners make up some 80 percent of the four-million population.

The solution was a “progressive” nationalisation of the workforce with local, qualified workers taking over from non-Emiratis, he said.

The president called for the economy to be restructured in a way that would cut down on “the mass of unqualified foreign workers who account for the biggest factor in the demographic imbalance”.

Foreign labourers, mostly from the Indian sub-continent, have been powering the UAE’s construction boom but their working conditions have been a regular target of criticism by rights groups.

Sheikh Khalifa, however, said they “can not be classified as immigrant workers as they work here on a provisional basis under fixed term contracts.

“As a result, the standing laws on immigration in Western countries can not apply fully to these workers

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