Foreign workers make up 85 per cent of the UAE’s population, with the majority from South Asian nations such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The population of the UAE is “closer to 10 million,” Ameen Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary, Public Health Policy and Licence Sector, Ministry of Health, said on Sunday.

The population was 9.3 million at the end of 2014, according to the Ministry of Health.

Al Amiri did not state further details. He was speaking in Dubai at an exhibition and conference promoting business opportunities between Dubai and Florida.

The UAE population has been steadily growing over the past decade. In 2005, it was 4.149 million and in 2010 it was 8.442 million, according to the World Bank.

The UAE relies heavily on foreign workers, who make up 85 per cent on the country’s population. The majority of foreigners living in the country are from South Asian nations — India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Indians represent the single largest expatriate community with 2.6 million, accounting for 30 per cent of the total population, according to the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE’s population is expected to continue to grow despite rising costs of living due to high rents and the removal of subsidies from petrol prices and utility bills, Alp Eke, senior economist at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), told Gulf News by email.

The UAE, a business and tourism hub, has been able to attract foreign workers from over 200 countries, officials boast. Many expatriates are attracted to the UAE because of its relatively liberal lifestyle compared with neighbouring countries, a tax-free salary policy and its position as a safe haven in the region.

“An important contributor to the UAE’s attractiveness is high quality of life, world-class infrastructure, advanced health care and education,” Eke said.

Global economic concerns are also unlikely to deter foreigners from the UAE, despite the impact on the local economy following last summer’s massive fall in global oil prices.

“Strengthening of the dirham with respect to the UAE’s main trading partner currencies is a major factor in attracting foreign labour as well,” he added.

The UAE is the second largest country among the Arab Gulf nations by population and size of the economy.

As of 2013, the population of Saudi Arabia was 28.83 million, Oman 3.632 million, Kuwait 3.369 million, Qatar 2.169 million and Bahrain 1.332 million, according to the World Bank.