View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, April 16, 2007

UAE Population Perplexities

In a Gulf News special this week, Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science at the Emirates University, Al Ain stated some population projections for the United Arab Emirates.

Here is a summary of his projections:

1. According to 2005 population census, 8 out of 10 people living in the UAE were born abroad.

2. If the current double digit annual economic growth continues [requiring people to come to the country on work visas], the percentage of non-citizens will reach 90 per cent by 2015.

3. By 2025, the citizens of the UAE will constitute zero per cent of the population and is “unprecedented in modern history” says Abdullah.

This zero per cent projection seems difficult to understand but the point about the proportional decline of Emiratis is clearly made.

The Professor states that these projections “raise serious issues regarding national identity, citizenship, residency, multiculturalism, sustainability and, ultimately, the question as to who is going to be in the driving seat of this rapidly globalising society?”

I couldn’t help but recognize the fear and fright that the writer was expressing, as revealed in the following phrases:

“UAE suffers from a deep demographic imbalance…”
“Getting worse by the hour…”
“The UAE will constitute zero per cent.”
“Unprecedented in modern history.”
“The demographic figures alone are frightening.”
“Who is going to be in the driving seat?”
“The demographic dilemma.”
“The chronic demographic imbalance.”
“Dr Jamal [said] that the UAE has lost the demographic fight for good.”
“He recommends … coexistence … which amounts to a national suicide for the citizens of the UAE.”
“The deadly demographic imbalance in the UAE.”
“The numbers alone, which have reached a critical level, are frightening.”
“To avoid living so dangerously close to the edge of the mount.”

There are issues here about how the indigenous people of the UAE might maintain cultural identity and religious traditions if citizenship and the vote were offered to immigrants who have come from a variety of countries and backgrounds.

Lurking behind these issues is the primary question of power and control or in Abdulkhaleq Abdullah’s words, “Who is going to be in the driving seat?”

Perhaps fear is the factor as to why this debate has not been on the agenda and getting the attention that it deserves.

The full article by Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, can be read at ‘UAE's demographic imbalance’, 14 April 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: “How the indigenous people might maintain cultural identity and religious traditions.”