Friday, May 22, 2009

Population ups & downs

We have plenty of conflicting reports about Dubai's population, varying wildly from large decreases to large increases over the next year.

They're all guesswork of course, crystal ball gazing, so I view them all with some scepticism.

The DNRD have said that many more new visa are being issued than existing ones cancelled. But as I said in a March posting the 'journalists' failed to clarify the figures so we don't really know what they mean.

We've had projections of population reductions from UBS (down 8%) and EFG-Hermes (down 17%) while the Ministry of Economy says Dubai's population will grow by 7.8% this year.

The EFG-Hermes predictions also include something that many people are saying - a mass exodus in July: "...a number of people who lost jobs in the beginning of the year are staying on to allow their children to complete the school year, and will leave once the term ends."

I take that with a pinch of salt - if they lost their jobs at the beginning of the year how are they staying until July, given the visa rules?

My gut feeling is that the population will stay about the same in number but with a noticeable change in its makeup.

I don't suppose my experience is much different from most others. Friends and aquaintances have been moving on for a variety of reasons - they've been here long enough and it's simply time to move on, or the contract's ended and they move on to another one somewhere else, or they lost their job in the panic redundancies companies have been making. But there are new arrivals too, some replacing people who've left while others are coming into new positions.

There's also the huge new retail job market. For example, WAM reports that the Dubai Mall is now the region's single largest new employment generator, creating 10,000 jobs this year. There's also the new Dubai Marina Mall, and the extensions to Ibn Battuta and Mall of the Emirates. Plenty of additional hotels too.

So while jobs are being lost in areas such as financial services, real estate and construction, many more jobs are being created elsewhere.

So the big, bulk change in makeup I see is that construction workers, who are mainly Indian, are leaving while retail and hospitality workers, who are mainly Filipino, are arriving.

There's been a huge and noticeable change in the number of Filipinos here already and I think that's going to accelerate in the coming year.

For the rest of us I don't think there'll be much in the way of a noticeable change, perhaps a few less Europeans and Arab expats overall.

WAM retail report.

Down 17% prediction.

Down 8% prediction.

Up 7.8% prediction.


I'm still receiving visitors to this post from Isaac's post a year ago on Submedia. You may have arrived here from the link he gave.

In it he said I and other Dubai-based bloggers: "along with the government-monitored-if-not-owned newspapers are the only ones defending the city as the whole world cackles at a dirty dream that has been exposed for what it really was.

A response to that was required, and so were corrections to the untrue claims & statements and misinformation in his post. You've read what Isaac had to say, now you can read the real facts here.


CY said...

I know of several people who were made redundant but the employers did not cancel their visas for several months (in case it was four months later and only when the ex-employee herself requested the cancellation as she had decided to return home). The rumour mill would suggest that some (many perhaps) employers are following this policy of not cancelling visas and providing NOCs in the hope that the people who have been made redundant can stay to look for a job.

Seabee said...

I agree CY, I also know of a number of companies who are giving up to three months before cancelling the visa, but there are also many who aren't doing it.

Those giving the extra time aren't paying for the ex-employees' accommodation after they leave though, and of course they aren't receiving a salary. That's why I doubt the rumours of so many people hanging on here for months - up to six or seven according to the EFG-Hermes story.

Anonymous said...

It is very simple for me to expect what will happen.

Indians and Pakistanis (singles mainly and some with families) are the 2nd most resistant in this land after the minor local population, so they will continue to flood this place for work and the dream of correcting the population mix and other incentives that were carried out along with the property boom era (which lasted for few years) will be eroaded for another chance of trial and error to come in the future.

True Phillipinos are here and might increase but still percentage wise the U.A.E. is not THE most attractive place for them and they will always be required somewhere else.

In my own opinion the business here likes the Indian subcontinant model which accepts less in compensation and that will continue to be the motive.

I know I am so upfront but I can't help not being so.

James O'Hearn said...

I'm not sure about the large influx of Filipinos, as I've heard otherwise. I know someone who does recruiting and training for the Al Futtaim Group, and from what I hear it's harder to get Filipinos and Indians (not labourers) to come over than it used to be, as, especially in the case of India, economic prospects are getting better back home. In place of those groups, a lot of the new arrivals are coming from China. Seeing as how the manufacturing economy has collapsed there, this makes sense.

I have also noticed that a lot of Westerners have been taking off (Not that you'd notice it a the Lime Tree Cafe). A few of my friends have told me that pretty much every white manager and executive in their companies has been asked to move on.

Which may be why... this may sound odd, but I was, maybe shocked is too harsh a word, but at least taken aback a bit at Festival City the other day when I learned that the sales reps hovering around the cars on display were Brits and Americans. In the past I had seen Filipinos, Indians, even locals doing glad handling jobs like that, and maybe the odd South African, but never other westerners. Maybe it's a sign that times are getting tough?

As for staying on until July...I totally see that. In most expat families, except for the obscenely well paid Western families, both parents work. In the case of job loss, one spouse sponsors the other, or the other goes on a visit visa, and makes visa runs until it is time to leave. I know a number of Indians doing this right now.

Anonymous said...

To my mind the best indicator of the population situation may be DEWA's announcement that water use has decreased by 37% from their 'conserve water' campaign.

There's no possible way such a significant decrease in water use is attributable to people turning off taps when they brush their teeth and switching to more cactus in their lawns. These kinds of initiatives can usually expect to bring a 5-10% reduction if continually publicized and backed with fines.

Dave said...

One thing we do know for sure is that the DNRD are certainly trying to talk things up so that they can save face in the view of International scrutiny.....

the real nick said...

I take that with a pinch of salt - if they lost their jobs at the beginning of the year how are they staying until July, given the visa rules?Seabee,
The reason behind this is that several companies haven't actually fired workers (yet) because they do not have the funds to pay the gratuities that would be due.

I know for a fact that one (previously) large government project management company is doing this: they are keeping the employment visa alive "until further notice" and wait for people to leave eventually on their own account, thereby giving up their entitlements to redundancy pay. It's a legal loophole.

Seabee said...

Nick, yes that's true, I've heard much the same. But the point is that those people haven't been fired, they're still earning a salary.

James & Jassim, it's true that salaries in India are reaching the point where coming to the Gulf isn't very attractive, and that's another reason for my feeling that the Indian population here will shrink.

For Filipinos the Gulf is still an attractive area where they can earn much more than back home. The evidence of my eyes is that there are an increasing number of them working here. As I said, my gut feeling is that we'll see many fewer Indians but many more Filipinos and that'll be the biggest population change.

It's no more than crystal ball gazing though, the same as all the 'official' reports - we'll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents on lesser number of indians coming in. this would have really accelerated if the media here was free, and true reports were coming out about how their people actually live here, and for how less, and under what terrible conditions. the influx would have literally come to a standstill. now it is mostly the illiterate rural people who have no clue about anything that are mostly drummed up for dubai. and some from kerala, which being a communist state, there are no businesses or jobs there, so they have to work in other indian cities, or in the gulf. and many came to the gulf seeing the wealth early immigrants made. if they know the reality now, they would not even get on the flight in most cases. but the PR spin, and lack of these stories being picked up properly by the indian media is still luring in people. the educated class has already given up on the gulf, and see it as highly infradig.

Anonymous said...

In response to "I take that with a pinch of salt - if they lost their jobs at the beginning of the year how are they staying until July, given the visa rules?"

Answer: For families with children in school, there is a special visa extension one can apply for in the event they are laid off. This visa allows them to stay here until their children finish the school year. It costs 5000 Dirham I think, but there you go. It may not be official... but it can be done. My partner works processing visas, and interacts with many high ranking immigration staff and this is what she found out when she asked. I find it strange no one else knows about this?

Seabee said...

Anon@5.23, I have to disagree with your points.

...if the media here was free, and true reports were coming out about how their people actually live here...
Whether the media here is free or not doesn't apply to your point. What the Indian media is saying will encourage or deter people from coming, and the Indian media is free.

...the educated class has already given up on the gulf, and see it as highly infradig.
I'm not sure I agree with you. Indians fill very many very important top management positions here, own and run major companies. I think many still see great opportunities here.

ZeTallGerman said...

Hmmm, I do believe that many expatriates are leaving and one always has to ask themselves, what type of expatriates? We wouldn't feel the impact with less traffic on the roads, less patrons in restaurants and less shoppers in malls if it were only low-income labourers "fleeing" the UAE. Here's an article from today's Gulf News with the subject of "Some UAE banks are seeing up to 2,500 customers leave the country every month without paying off their credit card bills":

Seabee said...

ZTG I agree it's all about the type of people leaving.

Less traffic congestion? Yes, but a lot of that is due to roads, bridges, intersections being completed and opened, not just a reduction in cars.

Restaurants - I see no reduction in customers in any of the places we use.

Less shoppers I agree with, but a lot of that is due to the big drop in tourist arrivals because of the recession, the fact that it's coming into good weather in the source countries and the fact that summer's here in Dubai.

I'm very sceptical about the credit card report. For a start the use of the famous "up to" before the number renders the number meaningless. "Up to" 2,500 could mean 100!

The RAK bank spokesman says that their number of 'skips' is "around half the rate" of the others. He gives the others as "from 1,500" meaning that RAK's figure is maybe 600 or 700. Why does he say the others are up to four times more? Sounds like a bit of positive spin for his own bank rather than accurate statistics.

I'd also like to ask what I always ask when figures are bandied about - how do they compare with previous years? A few hundred 'skips' a year is almost certainly the norm.

Anonymous said...

Hi im doing a project, looking at the population of Dubai and how the continuous change affects the resources, and how the government in Dubai manages to balance the population and resources needed. Any ideas??

Seabee said...

Anon@5.13 that's too big and complicated a subject to go into here.

We do have a census every so often, and there are five, ten, fifteen year plans in place, which are regularly reviewed.

It's not only population but visitors that need to be catered for. Tourism is big business with fifteen million predicted for about 2015.

Stats are hard to come by but you could look at the various federal and Dubai government websites for figures, predictions etc.