9,000 Nepalese workers a month flocking to UAE

The deputy chief of the Nepal Embassy in Abu Dhabi puts surge down to a greater demand for construction workers and the hard-working nature of the Nepalese people.

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ABU DHABI // The number of Nepalese workers arriving in the country has increased by as much as 400 per cent from last year.

Up until February last year, between 1,800 and 2,700 came to the Emirates a month, said Nepal's Embassy. But in recent months that figure has risen to about 9,000 people a month.

The deputy chief of the Nepal Embassy in Abu Dhabi puts it down to a greater demand for construction workers and the hard-working nature of the Nepalese people.

"Due to fast-growing construction work in the Emirates, the demand for a Nepalese workforce has significantly increased over the past year," said Dipak Adhikari. "Employers thrive on them due to their trustworthiness, diligence and hard-working nature, as well as their comparatively less salaries to other countries' workers."

The Nepalese population in the UAE has ballooned from fewer than 100,000 to about 200,000 in recent years.

Those figures still lag behind the main labour-sending countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose people make up 2 million, 1.2 million and 1 million of the UAE's total population of about 8.2 million people, respectively. However, it is still a significant amount from a country with a far smaller population.

The continued rise in the Nepalese population is in contrast to that of Bangladesh, which was sending about 40,000 workers a month to the UAE in 2008 but only sent half that amount by 2010 as the economic crisis took hold.

By last year, the number of Bangladeshis arriving here slipped to almost zero as the UAE tried to balance its labour market, offering visas to mostly just professionals.

Most Nepalese workers arriving are going into the construction, hospitality, cleaning and domestic sectors.

The government has set wages for unskilled workers at Dh800 a month plus accommodation and food. "We used to certify documents for 2,500 people a month but in the last few months the demand jumped and now we certify about 4,000 applications," Mr Adhikari said.

"When we were certifying 2,500 a few months back, the department was issuing work permits for more than 5,000, so it means that the number is increasing rapidly," Mr Adhikari said. And the mission has calculated that about 9,000 workers could have been coming to the Emirates per month.

"The trend of arrival is up, so it could be close to 200,000 now," said Mr Adhikari, in relation to the total number of Nepalese in the UAE now. By comparison India, which makes up the largest populace in the UAE, has between 19,000 and 20,000 people arriving a month, the Indian Embassy said.

Last year, 140,000 Indian ECR (emigration check required) passport holders migrated to the Emirates, or about 11,666 people a month, in addition to the 8,000 to 10,000 non-ECR passport holders that migrate every month here, Indian mission sources said.

Figures of the ECR holders' arrival last year show about 11,666 persons coming to the UAE a month.

Mohammed Shahadat Husain, at the Bangladesh Embassy, is concerned by the lack of arrivals from his country.

"The arrival of Bangladeshis is almost nil. Only a few professional persons travelled to the UAE in previous months for jobs but now it's zero," he said.

"After the stoppage of visas from the Emirates in August last year, our people started looking for jobs back home as plenty of construction and developmental works are going on."

But Mr Husain said many Bangladeshis were moving to other Asian countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia, while some were heading to European destinations.

An official at the Pakistan consulate in Dubai said he did not have figures for arrivals to the UAE per month.