Expats' status 'temporary' say Gulf states
Abu Dhabi, January 22, 2008
Gulf states, dependent on foreign labour for their development but wary of its impact on the demography, yesterday stressed the temporary nature of their status at a meeting with Asian countries.
'It has been accepted that the labour force is of contractual temporary nature,' the UAE Labour Ministry assistant under-secretary Yousuf Abdulghani was quoted as saying in a report in Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.
'This really preserves the particularity of the country in terms of population demographics and work-force demographics,' he said on the first day of a meeting attended by senior labour officials from 21 Asian and Gulf states.
The Gulf states have huge expatriate population, in some cases outstripping the number of local nationals.
The Abu Dhabi Labour Dialogue is the first of its kind to be held in a major labour-receiving country. Labour ministers are to meet today to discuss a draft declaration.
'This is an unprecedented step in the dialogue between the labour-sending and labour-receiving countries,' Abdulghani said.
The meeting builds on the Asian Regional Consultative Process on Overseas Employ-ment and Contractual Labour, known as the Colombo Process, set up in 2003.
In 2005, the group which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam recognised that the term 'expatriate and contractual labour' is a more accurate description of labour flows to the GCC.
This term appears to be favoured over 'migrant workers', which could imply permanent relocation and possible naturalisation.