The UAE’s Unsustainable Nation Building

Slowdown? UAE economic growth dipped to 1.8 percent in 2016, and the government strives for less reliance on migrant labor and more startups like Souqalmal.com, a UAE-based financial comparison site founded by CEO Ambareen Musa

The United Arab Emirates ranks among the 10 wealthiest nations in the world, but the wealth is not spread equally among the population of 9 million, 90 percent of which are migrant workers. The country prospered by relying on low-paid migrant workers, many from South Asia who work on short-term contracts. Hefty recruitment and relocation costs, especially for the east skilled workers, put many migrants into debt. “Emirati citizenship is confined to those whose ancestors lived in its seven constituting Emirates before 1925,” explains Riaz Hassan, director of Institute of Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia and now a visiting research professor in Singapore. “The country has no system of naturalization or permanent residency.” The exclusionary system is unsustainable in an increasingly transnational world, and he encourages the UAE to transition from a labor-intensive to capital-intensive, high-tech economy requiring less manual labor and more skilled professionals. The UAE fears the loss of Arab culture, but that battle has already been lost. – YaleGlobal