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Demography, Migration, and the Labour Market in the UAE

  • Françoise De Bel-Air
Publisher: Gulf Research Center
Date of Publication: Jun 2015
Publications Categories: Research Papers & Analysis


The objective of the paper is to draw a sketch of UAE’s population and migration dynamics, using the scarce data available from the federal and emirate level statistical bureaus. In 2010, expatriates in the UAE were estimated to number 7,316,073 persons, twenty times the 1975’s figure of 356,343. Foreign nationals thus made up 88.5 per cent of the country’s total population; most were believed to come from Asia and especially from India. In the employed population, foreign nationals accounted for an even larger share (96 per cent of the Dubai’s employed population in 2011). Non-Emiratis comprised 40 per cent of the UAE’s public sector’s workforce in 2013, but as much as 99.5 per cent of those employed in the private sector. Unlike in other GCC states, a quarter of working expatriates were in managerial posts, employed across all activities’ spectrum. Expatriates’ demographic expansion mounted during the 2000s, a period of spectacular economic growth fuelled by soaring oil prices. Since 2008’s financial downturn, however, the economy recovered and the hiring of foreign workers has resumed, stimulated by large-scale projects such as Dubai’s Expo 2020. Nonetheless, reforms in immigration policies are now undertaken, fuelled by security concerns and pressures from human rights’ protection bodies. The reality of some expatriates’ settlement is also witnessed in numbers (expatriate children aged 0-14 outnumbered Emirati children already in 2005), while mixed marriages are acknowledged in policies: some naturalisations of children of Emirati mothers have been performed since 2011.

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