Wake up and smell the shortage

With the value of the dirham now slumped against the rupee, more and more Indians are heading home, says Angela Giuffrida.

COMMENT, Human Resource

Among those helping to build the UAE are companies deemed as being the best in the world.

The country has attracted the best contractors, consultants and project managers. It is also home to some of the best property developers.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have an army of construction workers, who after toiling for several years on some of the best projects, have turned themselves into the kind of labourers who are now equipped with the best experience to work in other burgeoning construction markets.

Thousands of illegal construction workers have crowded their home countries' embassies since the UAE declared a three-month amnesty in June. The amnesty has offered them the chance to legalise their status or leave without facing a penalty.

The workers haven't been the only ones forming queues outside the embassies and consulates.

Contractors grappling with labour shortages are using the amnesty to tout for new staff, while recruitment agencies are making the most of the opportunity to find potentially lucrative applicants. But the problem they have is that a significant number of these workers don't want to stay.

There are a number of reasons why: working and living conditions may have been less than perfect during their time here, but until recently the chance to earn more than they would back home was a reason to grin and bear it.

With the value of the dirham now slumped against the strengthening rupee, the initial reason for Indian workers coming here is now one of the main reasons to leave.

The other factor is that the experience they've gained here is now demanded in their home markets.

Contractors in India are already placing adverts in the UAE newspapers, enticing workers home by reminding them of the harsh climatic conditions they work under here and the escalating cost of living.

One developer remarked this week that the mass exodus will exacerbate the labour shortage, and delay projects.

The same developer was confident, however, that the government would find new sources of labour.

But isn't it about time some companies took the initiative themselves? A good place to start might be coming up with ways to keep their best workers.

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