x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai's population is still growing

An economist says Dubai's population is growing, despite reports that the economic downturn has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs.

Dubai's population is continuing to grow, a government official said yesterday, despite reports that the economic downturn has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs. The emirate issued 1,000 more visas a day than it cancelled last month, Raed Safadi, the chief economist for the Government of Dubai, said yesterday at a conference. "They're still positive," he said, referring to the net entries of people to Dubai.

However, the growth in net entries has slowed in recent months. Based on Mr Safadi's figures, 31,000 more people received Dubai work visas than those who cancelled their labour or residence permits in January. The emirate issued a net increase of about 40,000 visas in December and in a normal month issues a net of 59,000 work visas, he said. Dubai's Ministry of Labour is cancelling an average of 1,500 work permits and visas a day, according to some newspaper reports. Mr Safadi, declining to confirm that number, said the city needed to support growth in consumer demand and job creation to guarantee the economy's expansion in the future.

Late last month, a senior officer at the Abu Dhabi Residency and Naturalisation Department said the emirate received 400 to 1,000 new visa applications every day. He said the number of cancellations remained stable, 50 to 200 a day. Speculation about the extent of job losses and outward migration across the country prompted an economist at Standard Chartered Bank, Mary Nicola, to suggest last month that "the biggest risk facing the UAE economy is related to its labour market".

The UAE's redundancies started last year when Morgan Stanley laid off 15 per cent of its Dubai staff and Goldman Sachs let go 10 per cent of its workforce. Layoffs then spread to local firms in the property and financial services sectors. Nakheel dismissed 15 per cent of its staff and Shuaa Capital nine per cent in the fourth quarter last year. Other property developers and construction companies have laid off staff after scaling back projects and cancelling new developments. Morgan Stanley has said US$263 billion (Dh71.6bn) worth of projects have been cancelled or postponed in the UAE.

In recent weeks, Mashreqbank and Damac Properties have cut jobs, while major hotel chains are laying off staff in reaction to sinking occupancy rates. * Additional reporting by Bloomberg