Foreign workers must shell out Dh6,000 each to learn skills in their home countries before moving to the UAE, a senior government official told Gulf News.
The news comes as the UAE's Federal Demographic Council (FDC) said that the country would set up training centres in India in an effort to control the flow of unskilled workers into the UAE's construction industry and bypass private recruitment agencies.
"The UAE will start by opening an office in India in early 2013 to train and rehabilitate workforce," said Saeed Abdullah, the National Productivity Improvement Programme manager at the FDC, adding that the ratio of unskilled labour in the construction sector amounts up to 85 per cent.
He said that the workers will have to bear the cost of the training estimated to be up to Dh6,000, but will no longer have to pay thousands of dirhams to recruitment agencies or private travel agents to get jobs. While India is the first country where centres will be established, both Pakistan and Bangladesh will also have these centres. Abdullah said that the "first batch of [trained] workers will be 5,000 in the first year, 20,000 in 2014 and 50,000 in 2015".
"The UAE government seeks to decrease the number of unskilled workers in the construction sector, considered a sector which employs the highest number of unskilled workers," he said.
Industry representatives said that the new rule to train workers would likely result in companies being forced to raise wages to cover the cost. "This will affect hiring conditions and wage levels," said Amer Al Mansouri, chairman of Al Mansouri Construction.
He also warned that the new rule could make construction more expensive and called for the authorities to discuss the move with the UAE Contractors Association, developers and construction companies before reaching a final decision. But analysts welcomed the move yesterday.
"The Dh6,000 should be directed towards improving the skills of workers and orienting them about the laws and regulations of the UAE and the wage system because once he knows his rights, he will help resolve disputes that would arise," said Waddah Taha, chief economist at Zarouni Group.
Taha did, however, question the cost of the training programme, saying that it was high and called for companies to split the cost with workers. "The amount should be divided on a fifty-fifty basis wherein the company seeking to hire the individual bears half the amount and worker the rest," he said.
The cost of bringing a worker to the Middle East is currently one of the highest in the world, with companies currently spending about Dh5,000 to hire an individual which includes a bank guarantee and medical and visa costs, but excluding the ticket.
Workers also pay amounts ranging between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000 for the air ticket, passport and other expenses.
Last year, the UAE government instructed relevant labour market bodies to establish a minimum requirement for qualifications needed for some jobs, starting with the construction sector.
These qualifications have to be approved by the FDC chairman in a move that aims to allow the labour market to rely on a skilled workforce and modern technology.
The council of ministers also instructed relevant bodies to lay down a general construction index containing a number of technical criteria that ensure developing productivity in this sector, as well as decreasing the number of unskilled workers in accordance with laws that assist contracting companies in using advanced technologies in the sector.
The cabinet also instructed all relevant bodies to draw up economic plans and follow up on the UAE's workforce by approving a balanced growth pattern that is characterised by economic diversity, relying on a skilled workforce and modern technology during its productive period to attain a national knowledge.
The council of ministers also instructed all bodies concerned to abide by these resolutions, and mandated the FDC to implement the resolutions in coordination with relevant bodies.