The number of Pakistanis that moved to the UAE for employment in 2022 (up to May) has risen by 128% when compared to the total number that went in all of 2021, as Covid restrictions eased and the Gulf country made efforts to increase its attractiveness to expats.
According to data available with the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BE & OE), the number of Pakistanis that registered for employment in the UAE is 62,615 till May, up from 2021’s total of 27,442.
This also coincides with Pakistan’s mission in the UAE working to raise minimum wages of Pakistanis in the country to keep up with the rise in costs of living.
UAE’s growth stood out when compared with the other top four countries where Pakistanis sought employment. While Saudi Arabia saw an increase of nearly 31%, lower than that of the UAE, Oman (decrease of 7%), Qatar (fall of 40%) and Bahrain (decrease of 42%) all saw declines.
As per a 2020 report by the BE & OE, the labour market of UAE is “more open and advanced” for expats as compared to other GCC countries.
“There is high demand of qualified professionals in the sectors such as IT, Civil engineering, financial management sector, healthcare hospitality, tourism and services sector etc,” it said.
In the previous two years, the number of Pakistanis going to the UAE had seen a fall – plunging from 211,270 in 2019 to 53,676 in 2020 and 27,442 in 2021. The fall was attributed to the pandemic taking a toll on economies around the globe as well as the mobility factor. A similar trend was seen in Pakistanis proceeding to other GCC countries as well.
However, things now appear to be picking up as the UAE eases COVID-related restrictions and opens up its economy as well as tourism.
The recently-released Economic Survey 2021-22 noted that Pakistan’s “situation of the human resource exports is likely to improve in the coming months with the reopening of business with SOPs and various preventive measures like vaccination, and work opportunities in various host countries, etc.”
According to the Consul General of Pakistan to the UAE, Hassan Afzal Khan, the decline was due to the market becoming highly competitive for job-seekers, especially for the semi-skilled.
But now, there is a massive improvement in the number of Pakistanis who want to migrate to the UAE, he recently told Arab News.
Khan also said the mission was working to raise the minimum wages of Pakistani nationals in the UAE from the current Dh800 (which was fixed in December 2018) to Dh1,200 (approximately $330) per month to keep up with the high costs of living.
“We are trying to ensure that any contract that comes to us now meets the minimum wage criteria with the added benefits so that workers here can earn and send a substantial amount back home,” he said.
If looked at from the point of view of remittances (the second largest source of foreign exchange for Pakistan after exports), data shows $435 million came as inflows from the UAE in May 2022, of which an amount of $332 million was from Dubai alone, indicating it is the most popular among all the emirates for Pakistanis to go and work in.
Some $97 million came from Abu Dhabi and $3.6 million from Sharjah.
Since 1971, nearly 12 million Pakistanis have gone abroad for employment to over 50 countries through official procedures as of December 2021, according to data available with BE & OE. Of this, roughly 10 million have proceeded to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, highlighting the importance of the two destinations for Pakistanis seeking employment abroad.
UAE working to attract more labour and talent
Many believe the number of Pakistanis flocking to work in the UAE is expected to grow, as pandemic worries ease and the government goes to great lengths to attract labour.
For instance, a new mandatory unemployment insurance scheme will become effective January 2023.
The government said this scheme, offered to all workers in the country, will not only provide stable living standards for families in case of unemployment, but also reduce business risks and attract talent that can contribute to building a competitive knowledge-based economy in the UAE.
Earlier this year, it also introduced new categories of visas with simplified requirements, and relaxed rules of its famous ‘golden visa’.
Golden residence holder can sponsor their family members regardless of their age, and can sponsor any number of domestic staff.
Family members can stay in the UAE in the event of the death of the original holder of the golden residence until the end of their permit duration.
It has also overhauled its labour laws: the most significant changes include employees no longer having to exit the country upon losing their job, as well as more generous maternity leave.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022