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Employment laws to be relaxed for expatriate students

Expatriate students in the UAE are to be given permission to take on part-time and full-time jobs.

Abu Dhabi // Expatriate students in the UAE are to be given permission to take on part-time and full-time jobs to help to reduce the country's dependence on imported foreign labour, according to WAM, the Government's official news agency. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, yesterday approved recommendations by the Demographic Structure Committee, which is considering how the country's demographic imbalance should be addressed.

Among the recommendations was a system developed by the Ministry of Labour that would allow non-Emirati students to work while studying. Adding tens of thousands of students to the job market would decrease the country's reliance on imported workers, committee members said. Lt Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Interior Minister and chairman of the Demographic Structure Committee, said the Government was making "serious efforts" to establish a balance between the booming economy and "the national principles of the UAE".

The demographic imbalance was "an obstacle to sustainable development", he said. There are an estimated 30,000 students at federal universities and about 55,000 at non-federal universities, which have mostly expatriate students. More than 90 per cent of the private sector's 3.1 million workers come from outside the Emirates, according to a Ministry of Labour report. In 2006, they collectively sent home US$16 billion (Dh58.79bn) in remittances.

There are more than 40 private universities in the UAE and plans for many more. New York University and the Université Paris-Sorbonne will have campuses in Abu Dhabi. Within a decade, more than 100 higher-education institutions will have at least 150,000 students. Other recommendations by the committee included encouraging employers to ensure diversity of nationalities among workers to prevent a limited number of national groups from asserting influence.

The committee also proposed "traditional" construction methods that would require fewer workers. An estimated 1.5 million people work in construction in the UAE. The committee also approved the recent introduction of self-service pumps at petrol stations, an initiative designed to reduce the need for some "marginal occupations". The committee would hold a workshop early next month when public and private sector representatives will discuss "marginal occupations and non-critical activities" that could be eliminated, replaced or modified, WAM said.

@email:rditcham@thenational.ae

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