One in every two applications for a new labour visa was rejected in the first four months of this year, according to official government figures. Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs statistics show that the ministry approved 55,241 new labour visas between January 1 and the end of April.
During the same period a similar number of visa applications was rejected. Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, Undersecretary for Labour Affairs, said that the largest number of labour permits, 14,827, went to workers from Arab countries. Permits for 13,783 Indian workers were also approved.
Workers from the remaining Asian countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines received 22,862 labour visas. Employees from Europe and the United States received 2,506 permits and workers from Africa and other countries 1,380.
Denying that there was a ban on workers from any particular country, Al Khazraji said the committee that approves labour permits had taken into account "the cultural diversity of the work force in the private sector" and the need to create "an equilibrium among the demographic structure of the labour force."
Al Khazraji said the ministry had implemented its cultural diversity policy to ensure each company's work force reflected the UAE's demographic distribution. He added that the ministry had no plans to establish quotas for expatriate workers but was keen on maintaining a balance among nationalities.
There are no restrictions on the recruiting of skilled workers, but he said restrictions had been placed on unskilled workers to force companies to make use of workers already in the country.
A breakdown of the ministry figures shows that 29.4 per cent of the approved visas were for labourers, 27.6 per cent for skilled workers, 13.3 per cent for administrators, 9.4 per cent for technicians, 7.8 per cent for professionals, 6.9 per cent for managers, 5.1 per cent for other professions and 0.5 per cent for unspecified workers.
Al Khazraji said preference had been given to Arab nationals under Federal Law No 8 which states that Arab nationals should be given priority after UAE nationals in filling job vacancies.