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Brain drain hits UAE

Adel Arafah
Filed on October 27, 2005

ABU DHABI This is one World Bank report that the UAE government may want to have a close look at. Two out of three UAE nationals who leave the shores of the country are skilled workers, a sure indication of brain drain having taken roots in the UAE.

According to the report, the UAE ranks a high fourth in the list of nations losing out skilled workers to other countries, with 67 per cent of the UAE nationals seeking jobs in other countries falling under the educated category.

On the flip side, the UAE, however, fares better in retention of nationals, accounting for one of the lowest rates of migration across the globe.

In the rankings for the ratio of skilled migrants to overall migrants in the year 2000, Qatar and Kuwait are ahead of the UAE, occupying the second and third places respectively behind Taiwan. Saudi Arabia is in the seventh place and Oman ninth, meaning that the top 10 are made up of five GCC countries.

Some may point to the results of the survey - which is perhaps the most comprehensive ever done on the international migration of educated workers - as evidence that countries carefully choose the type of workers they admit as immigrants.

The United Kingdom tops the table for the most people quitting their home country, with over 1.4 million graduates working overseas. India is third after the Philippines with over one million skilled workers living elsewhere.

India also has one of the lowest migration rates at 4.3 per cent, while Guyana has the worst record, sending out 89 per cent of it's skilled workers.

The findings are likely to create a sense of ambivalence for the UAE Government. On the one hand, the low rate of migration could be read as "all is well," and on the other, it could be a matter of concern that those who do leave overwhelmingly tend to be the most educated workers.

Since the report covers workers aged 25 and above, the migrants do not include the bulk of those who temporarily go abroad to school and university.

It is likely that one reason for the high percentage of skilled workers opting to stay out could be the potential mobility of educated UAE nationals who have internationally-recognised qualifications. The Government could also highlight the large influx of skilled labourers who move to the UAE as redressing the loss of homegrown educated people. No one at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs could be reached for comment.

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