Image Credit: Megan Hirons/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The influx of foreign workers and investment in the UAE has resulted in an exponential growth of the population in the past four years.

Figures published this month by National Bureau of Statistics indicated that 8.3 million were living in the country by mid-2010, up 65 per cent compared to mid-2006.

However, the percentage of Emiratis has dwindled to just 11.5 per cent from approximately 15.4 per cent in 2006.

The UAE's population strategy plans to make Emiratis the majority in the country, or up to 40 per cent, by 2021, members of the Federal National Council (FNC) told Gulf News.

Dr Abdul Rahim Al Shahin, a former representative from Ras Al Khaimah, said it would be for the good of the country that Emiratis account for the majority or up to 35 per cent of the population by 2021.

He suggested the population strategy should encourage the natural increase in the Emirati population while discouraging the recruiting of expatriate workers.

The UAE has seen its population surge from 5.01 million in 2006 to an estimated 8.26 million in the first half of last year.

Economic growth

The leap was due to a huge influx of foreign workers during years of rapid economic growth, while the number of Emiratis grew only from 851,164 in 2006 to 947,997 in the first half of 2010.

The estimate was based on records for foreign residents provided by the Interior Ministry, in addition to natural population growth.

According to the statistics posted on the bureau's website, Abu Dhabi had approximately 43 per cent of the national population or 404,546 people, while Dubai accounted for approximately 18 per cent or 168,029.

Sharjah had 153,365, while Ajman 42,186, Umm Al Quwain 17,482, Ras Al Khaimah 97,592 and Fujairah 64,860.

A nationality breakdown of foreigners was not provided, and when contacted by Gulf News, officials of the National Bureau of Statistics said the breakdown was not available..

In 2009, South Asians reportedly represented the majority of the UAE population.

Dr Al Shahin also suggested cutting the marginal and low-skilled labourers as well as centralising the issuance of visas into the hands of a single authority.

‘Political decision'

"Emiratis should make up to 80 per cent of the population within 20 to 25 years, a matter which requires a political decision," Dr Al Shahin said.

Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, who also heads the Federal Demographic Council, said in a letter presented to the FNC in January that a strategy to address the country's demographic imbalance was nearing completion and would be relayed to the House, but did not reveal the percentage of Emiratis the government targeted.

Dr Sultan Al Moadhen, a former member from Fujairah, said the target should be making Emiratis 40 to 50 per cent of the population by 2021.