Saqr Ghobash with Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi during the the Federal National Council session in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The government will start security checks on foreign workers soon as a Cabinet decision in this regard is expected shortly, a minister told the Federal National Council (FNC) on Tuesday.

Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, said conducting background security checks on foreign workers was approved in principle by the Cabinet in October last year.

“A committee made up of representatives of the ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Human Resources and Emiratisation was set up and its findings will be submitted to the Cabinet in a few weeks. We expect a Cabinet decision to conduct security checks on all foreign workers will be issued soon,” the minister said.

Ghobash was answering a question by Hamad Al Rahoumi, a member from Dubai, calling for stricter security checks on foreign workers as more details emerge about the case of a Jordanian man who was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering an eight-year-old boy last year.

“There are more than 4.5 million expatriate workers living and working in the UAE, but no background checks for any past criminal activity are conducted on them,” Al Rahoumi told the House.

Emiratis want to make sure every worker is free of a criminal record — regardless of wherever they come from.

“If a person has committed a crime in his/her home country and the person has a criminal record, there is no way for us to know unless there is security vetting,” Al Rahoumi said, wondering how come security clearance certificates are required from Emiratis but not from expatriate workers.

Al Rahoumi said with the state of the world now, security vetting of workers and visitors has become more of a concern and certainly something that needs to be addressed in the UAE.

He said he did not feel safe without knowing the background. He wanted to make sure every chauffeur that drives his family’s car is free of a criminal record. “It comes down to authorities conducting security checks before issuing work permits,” he said.

The Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation said concerns of all members will be taken into account.

Skilled workers

Marwan Bin Galita, First Deputy Speaker of the House, put a question to minister Ghobash about how successful his ministry’s efforts are in reducing the number of unskilled workers in the country.

Ghobash said there is a plan to increase the presence of highly skilled workers to 40 per cent of the work force in the country by 2021.

“The UAE also aims at increasing productivity of workers in non-oil sectors by five per cent annually,” Ghobash told the House, spelling out other measures taken by the ministry that led to an increase in the number of skilled workers to 600,000 last year from 400,000 from 2015, whereas the talented workforce grew by 20 per cent over the last five years.

“The UAE has been ranked first in attracting skilled workforce and second in retaining them internationally,” Ghobash said, adding that the ministries of Human Resources and Finance were conducting a study on decreasing fees for businesses committed to increasing skilled workers.

The number of registered employees at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation reached about 4.7 million by the end of 2015, compared to 4.417 million workers in 2014, according to statistics released by the ministry.

The statistics showed the number of skilled talents in 2015 recorded an overall growth of about 12 per cent. Workers registered at the ministry with fourth and fifth skill levels (limited skill) were around 79 per cent of the total employees while the number of workers having first, second and third levels (skilled) reached about one million or 21 per cent. This was 20 per in 2013 cent and 20.5 per cent ibn 2014.

Employment rates

Around 68,000 of the new workers were employed in the health sector, recording an employment increase of about 18 per cent last year, followed by the financial sector with 57,000 employees recording an employment growth rate of 13 per cent while the education sector, which saw 79,000 jobs, had a growth rate of about 7 per cent.

Construction, trade and industry sectors were the top three sectors with the highest employment rates in the labour market.

In 2011, the Cabinet decided to limit the employment of limited skill expatriate workers and to encourage the employment of skilled workers from within the UAE based on their vocational and accredited education degrees.

As for decreasing the number of unskilled workers in the construction sector, which utilises the highest number of such workers, the Cabinet 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 technology.