Tuesday 5th April 2011

Population in Abu Dhabi Dominated by Expats

Despite a slowing economy, the expat population in the UAE has reached almost 90% over the last three years according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The number of foreigners living in the United Arab Emirates reached a combined total of 8.26 million in the latter half of 2010, representing a total expat population of 88.5% of the UAE’s combined population. While the figures presented by the National Bureau of statistics are slightly lower than the 88.8% total revealed in 2008, there remains a dramatic increase from the 2006 estimated figure of 83%.

The estimates, which were based on records of foreign residents, the 2005 census and estimations of natural population growth, show that population increases have also been present within the local population, with the number of local UAE nationals rising by an estimated 11.4% to 948,000 over the past four and a half years.

However, increases in the number of local Emiratis has been smothered by the number of expatriate workers and their families and experts now warn that such a dependence upon foreign workers is heightening the risk of social dislocations.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Abdul Rahim Al Shahin, a former representative from Ras Al Khaimah, told Gulf News: “Emiratis should make up to 80 per cent of the population within 20 to 25 years, a matter which requires a political decision.”

At present the need for foreign workers is predominantly driven by oil production in the region, which has created significant demand for both skilled and unskilled labor. However, despite such demand, unemployment levels remain high among the local population, with research released by the International Council on Security and Development revealing a 12% unemployment rate within the region.

In early March of this year the IMP confirmed that the majority of those unemployed within the UAE reside in the northern emirates: “Although overall unemployment in the UAE is low, unemployment among nationals remains high and concentrated in the northern emirates,” the March 7 report said.

Yesterday, in response to political unrest in Bahrain and concerns that such turmoil may spread within the poorer areas of the Emirates, Sultan al Mansouri announced that action would be taken to improve the quality of life of nationals in the Northern Emirates through the creation of more jobs and an improved public infrastructure.

"There is a real focus on creating projects in Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain because of the guidelines from the leadership that the quality of life enjoyed by Abu Dhabi has to be also reflected in other emirates. This is exactly the policies we are working on now," Mr al Mansouri said.

"There are infrastructure and projects and plans in certain areas and some will be completed this year like the major roads and networks going to Fujairah for example," he added.

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