UAE faces severe worker shortage due to boom in Indian economy

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Dubai, Oct 24 (UNI) Severe shortage of skilled and unskilled labour is threatening to delay the massive construction projects in the UAE and low salaries, appreciating rupee and the economic boom in India are cited as factors behind the shortage.

Contracting companies struggle to hire workers from South Asia, especially India, within the shortest possible time, to deliver the pending projects on time and bid for the new ones.

More than Dh150 billion (Rs 1500 billion) worth of new projects was announced by master developers during the last two weeks, on top of the Dh4 trillion worth of projects that are in various stages of development.

''India is the top destination and about 80 per cent of our workers are from India,'' Bishoy Azmi, chief executive of Al Shafar General Contracting LLC, told Gulf News.

''However, we see a challenge in getting the right manpower within the stipulated time. Apart from the logistics side, the higher costs and the availability are two major issues.'' Against this background of shortage, the GCC proposal to slap a six year residency cap on expat workers is likely to come a cropper.

Top recruitment officials are frequently travelling to India to try and lure workers, who are shying away due to high inflation, decreasing value of dirhams against a strong rupee, that make the UAE labour market less attractive.

''Each labourer has to pay up to Dh4,500 visa fee, the majority of which goes to the contractors' pocket,'' Fahbin Anwar, director of Azhar Al Sharq management consultants said.

''Of this, contractors get Dh2,000 to Dh2,600 while the rest is divided between the agents. Now most contractors have lowered their fee and some companies have waived the visa fee and some have now gone ahead to bear the cost of processing workers' passports and other formalities - such is the extent of demand,'' he quipped.

The amnesty made the situation a bit worse, admitted Azmi.

J R Gangaramani, chairman of Al Fara'a Construction, said, ''The boom in the Indian economy is adversely affecting the manpower business in the UAE.'' The immediate estimated requirement of total unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the UAE would range between 1,00,000 to 1,50,000. The UAE has now decided to eliminate the middlemen by directly hiring workers from selected countries, a move that may see the government managing the region's biggest labour supply operation.


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