Unemployment rate among UAE nationals is spiralling as a result of the demographic imbalance in the country, an expert said here yesterday.

Dr. Yusuf Issa bin Hassan Al Sabri, General Director of the Management Development Institute, said the spectre of unemployment among nationals, particularly among graduates had been raised by the current demographic imbalance which has in turn tilted the pendulum of labour market in favour of expatriate workers.

According to Al Sabri, the expatriate workforce, particularly the Asian workforce which is estimated at around seven million workers in the Gulf states, constitutes a "time bomb" which might well change the face of the region within the coming 25 years.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Accountants and Auditors Society on Training and its Impacts on Emiratisation in the UAE, Al Sabri said that the country's reliance on the expatriate workforce had its negative and positive aspects.

On the negative aspects, he said the presence of large expatriate communities may pose challenges to the security and stability of the host society in that political divisions and backgrounds within these expatriate communities may surface any time.

This presence also constitute a sustained pressure on educational, health and economic services.

This is in addition to the total volume of cash transfers which expatriates make to their home countries and the impact of that on the national economy.

Another aspect, added Al Sabri, is the socio-cultural factor with its ramifications on the values and identity of the host society.

He noted that new types of crimes unknown before in the UAE society had emerged such as drug-trafficking and forgery as result of the intermingling of the local society with foreign communities.

He said the situation could be rectified through an analysis of the structure of the workforce – something that the policy of emiratisation is trying to do, although studies have indicated that there had been a corresponding rise in the expatriate workforce with the rise of the UAE population.

Al Sabri pointed out that the UAE population had grown by 5 1/8 times since 1996 to 2,938,000 in 1999, according to estimates. The overall workforce was estimated at 1,353,893 workers in 1995, of whom expatriate accounted for 93 1/8 per cent while locals accounted for just 7 1/8 per cent.

Al Sabri said emiratisation was achieving significant success in the public sector but was progressing at a much slower pace in the private sector. He added that nationalisation of jobs was an imperative in the GCC countries and that it required a political commitment.