Six-year stay cap plan for expat workers to be shelved

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Dubai, Jan 23 (UNI) The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) may shelve its proposal for six-year cap for expatriate workers, under pressure from business groups, a top UAE official indicated in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Yousef Abdelghani, Assistant Undersecretary General at the UAE Ministry of Labour, told mediapersons at the Labour Ministers' conference-- the 'Abu Dhabi Dialogue'-- that the controversial proposal ''may be discarded''.

''The three-plus-three [residency cap] is only a tool, a process, and is an initiative only discussed within the GCC. It may be discarded,'' he said, without giving any reason.

Asked whether the proposal was on the agenda of the conference, he said, ''We have a different community here, bigger players. This is a different venue.'' Mr Abdelghani told ArabianBusiness.com earlier on Monday that the residency cap would not be discussed in an interview on the sidelines of the four-day conference on overseas employment and contractual labour.

The remarks were in stark contrast to the full support given to the plan by the UAE and other Gulf states when it was first proposed by Bahrain's Labour Minister Majeed Al-Alawi in October last year.

The proposal sparked outrage among expatriate communities and was widely criticised by businesses already struggling to retain staff.

The proposal was due to be approved at December's GCC summit in Doha last year, but a decision was delayed.

Oman's Labour Minister Juma bin Ali bin Juma said on Monday that GCC countries had bowed to pressure from businesses to shelve the plan.

''Initially, GCC countries were broadly in favour of a proposed law to impose a six-year residency cap on unskilled foreign workers, but it has been proved impractical for the time being,'' he told the Gulf News on the sidelines of the conference.

UNI XC SKB HT1522

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