Labor: a 'most critical' issue
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
They are a minority in their own country. Of an estimated United Arab Emirates population of 1 million, only about 200,000 are said to be U.A.E. nationals. The rest - 80 percent - are expatriates and imported laborers.
Largely uneducated and unskilled, and seriously outnumbered, U.A.E. nationals are nonetheless in great demand. The government wants and needs them to step into key positions in government, commerce, and industry - as soon as possible.
And so an entire generation, many of them sons and daughters of Bedouin sheepherders, must be trained and educated, not only to replace expatriates but to take hold of and guide the future of the country.
To this end the government is sparing no expense. U.A.E. nationals attending college not only receive government compensation for tuition and expenses but are also paid for attending classes. Graduates who wish to pursue higher degrees do so with government support for as long as they wish to remain in school.
The U.A.E. labor situation is seen by the government as one of the most critical problems facing the country.
Though the government is understood to monitor closely the number of nationals and foreigners here, such statistics are not published or discussed in public.