x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ministry mulls plan for laid-off expats

The Government is expected to make life easier for skilled expatriates who have lost their jobs.

Passengers arriving by taxi at Terminal 1 of Dubai International Airport.
Passengers arriving by taxi at Terminal 1 of Dubai International Airport.

ABU DHABI // The Government is expected to make life easier for skilled expatriates who have been made redundant but wish to stay in the UAE to seek alternative employment. Increasing numbers of people are losing their jobs in such industries as advertising and construction. Under current laws, they face having their visas cancelled and being ordered to leave the country within one month.

If the Government approves proposals to make it easier for them to look for new jobs, it is likely that either companies will be told not to cancel the visas of sacked skilled workers or permission will be granted to those made redundant to remain in the Emirates while looking for work. A decision is expected to be made within seven to 10 days, according to sources at the Ministry of Labour yesterday.

In November, Ahmad Saif Belhasa, chairman of the UAE Contractors' Association and an adviser to the Ministry of Labour, urged companies still in a position to hire to consider recruiting people who were already in the country and had lost their jobs instead of choosing applicants from overseas. A ministry source said there would be no official comment until a "viable transparent policy" was decided by the departments involved.

"We have plans and a vision in place and we want to encourage opportunity and that will be met," he said. "If we are talking about people who have worked for property developers and lost their jobs then yes, that's one of the areas we are looking at." There have been a fair number of job cuts in recent months as the global credit crunch hit the region. Nakheel cut 500 staff last month and Damac Properties sacked 200 people in November. Investment banks and construction companies have also made cuts. Recruitment companies have seen a surge in applicants from within the country over the past few months, giving their clients a far wider pool from which to select candidates. "Since the redundancies there's a been marked increase in the number of local unemployed expatriates looking for work while they live out their residency visas," said Mike Hynes, managing partner of Kershaw Leonard. "We've always looked locally as a lot of clients prefer to have local expatriates because they have local experience. Now they have more choice." For many expatriates who have relocated to the UAE returning home amounts to a major upheaval, especially for those who have moved their families and bought property. Cliff Single, commercial manager at BAC Recruitment in Dubai, said his company had also seen an increase in the number of local applicants, many of whom had personal reasons for wishing to stay. "It depends on their personal situation, if they have a family and children in school it's not just a case of upping and leaving. Quite a lot of people have personal ties and not necessarily very many options." Recruitment companies report that the biggest increases in applications from UAE-based expatriates has occurred in the property and construction sectors, which have been hardest hit by the global crisis. Maz Murphy, a British property consultant for the international firm DTZ, was recently sacked and is staying in the UAE to look for work. She relocated to Dubai from the company's Shanghai office in August. "England isn't really an option," she said. "I left there six years ago and hadn't planned on going back. I'm settled here now, I have my friends here, my flat." Government departments are also discussing the introduction of contingency measures to protect banks and workers as defaults on loans and credit cards increase, an official said. The measures could include dropping the ban on people leaving or returning to the UAE if they default on their loans or credit cards, and giving borrowers and lenders time to resolve overdue accounts. * The National