articolo su UAE del financial times – UAE may rue its exodus of expatriates

articolo su UAE del financial times – UAE may rue its exodus of expatriates

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    e’ in inglese, sorry… ma per chi vive da qt parti e’ interessante….. che ne pensate??

    UAE may rue its exodus of expatriates
    By Robin Wigglesworth

    Published: March 23 2009 17:05 | Last updated: March 23 2009 17:05

    In the United Arab Emirates, a deluge of foreign professionals has underpinned rapid economic growth. But as job cuts mount, analysts warn that the federation’s open and flexible labour market could backfire.

    A swathe of job losses in real estate, financial services and tourism is leading to an exodus. The UAE’s labour and immigration laws allow for easy corporate cuts, but force expatriates who lose their jobs to find new employment within a month – or leave.

    This has turned unemployment into emigration, and economists say the population of the UAE – one of the most lopsided and expatriate-driven economies in the world – could decline over the next two years.

    This in turn could pummel consumer spending, cause a rise in delinquent personal loans, hamper recovery and imperil the country’s ambitious long-term growth plans, which are predicated on rosy population growth forecasts, economists say.

    “It will make the economy a lot slower to recover. If you leave, you leave, and you’re probably not coming back,” says an economist at an international bank. “Some sectors have been hit very hard, and it’s hard to see a sector that will do OK and create enough jobs to offset the cuts.”

    Only about 20 per cent of the UAE’s 4.7m population is local, one of the lowest rates in the world. In the commercial hub of Dubai, Emiratis only make up about a tenth of the inhabitants, according to UBS, the Swiss bank.

    The expatriate rumour mill churns with stories of mass lay-offs and abandoned cars at airports. Official figures are hazy and the authorities say more people are coming than going, but UBS estimates that given the travails of the property industry in particular – which employs about 25 per cent of the country’s population and nearly half of Dubai’s inhabitants – the country’s population could drop this year.

    The bank’s “conservative” estimate is that Dubai’s population will contract by 10 per cent over the next two years while Abu Dhabi’s population stagnates.

    But it could get a lot worse, warns Saud Masud, a UBS analyst. The bank’s worst-case scenario sees Dubai’s population shrinking by a fifth over two years, and Abu Dhabi contracting by 10 per cent.

    “There are inherent risks with the population dynamic,” Mr Masud says. “We’re in new territory. Even Singapore has a far lower expatriate population than the UAE.”

    Paul Dyer, a labour expert at the Dubai School of Government, says: “The flexibility of the labour market was a benefit for companies in the old days, as they could quickly cut back on costs, but things are very different now.”

    The UAE has quickly passed regulation to prevent private-sector companies firing local workers due to “economic conditions” but has yet to extend the visa grace period for expatriates to allow them to search for new jobs despite several officials saying they are looking into ways to halt emigration.

    “This is the first time something like this has happened in the United Arab Emirates, and it is natural to want to protect the national population,” says Joe Saddi, chairman of Booz & Co, the consultants. “At the same time, policymakers ought to do something with the expatriate situation.”

    Still, the UAE’s flexible labour market could mean that the worst of the job cuts are over, according to HSBC economist Simon Williams.

    “We are very aware of significant job cuts, but it would be wrong to assume that the recent spate of layoffs is going to continue,” says Mr Williams. “I don’t see a recovery in employment on the horizon – but the very worst of the lay-offs may already be done.”

    Nonetheless, analysts agree that the loss of white- collar expatriates will hurt consumer spending, which made up about 44 per cent of the UAE’s gross domestic product in 2007.

    Many expatriates have a lot of dependants, so the loss of one job can have a wide effect, says Mr Masud: “School attendances will be affected, gyms will have fewer customers, and the footfall at malls will drop.”

    Mr Williams adds: “The downturn in employment, coupled with the flagging confidence and the difficult credit environment, will impact consumer spending significantly.”

    Longer-term, the reversal of the past half-decade of swift population growth will affect the various “strategic visions” of the UAE’s emirates, many of which were based on optimistic population growth figures.

    Dubai is still targeting a 3 per cent increase in the labour force this year, but its target of a doubling by 2015 is being reviewed. Dubai is looking “at every option available as we encourage the labour market,” says Raed Safadi, chief economist of the emirate’s economics department.

    Economists say this will be tricky, given the parlous state of the economy. “Population growth was both a reflection of growth and fuelled it,” says Mr Williams. “As economic growth stalls, the demographic trend must change.”


    Questo articolo segue le fila di altre informazioni che delineano poco meno di un apocalisse. Alcune informazioni sono veritiere, tipo l’esodo di molti espatriati che lavorano nel settore edile e immobiliare. La situazione non è rosea, ma dov’è rosea? Rimango dell’impressione che il Golfo, seppure toccato dalla recessione globale stia subendo molto meno danni rispetto all’Europa e agli USA. Quindi i problemi ci sono e sarebbe da ingenui e ipocriti far finta che non ci fossero, ma non sono così pesanti come vengono dipinti dai media.

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