2.8 million workers and $13 bn: the story of Indian migrants to the UAE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Indian labourers during a visit to their camp in Abu Dhabi. He is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the United Arab Emirates in 34 years.  

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 34 years. Among other events, >he met Indian migrant workers at ICAD Residential City in Abu Dhabi, home to thousands.

The UAE is the top destination globally for Indian migrants, with over 2.8 million Indians living there according to UN estimates.

(A note here on the data: the definition of a migrant according to the UN, is any person who was born in another country. This explains the large number of Indian “migrants” in Pakistan.)

The growth in Indian migrants to the UAE in the 2000s has been remarkable; their number grew nearly six times in 20 years, while the overall Indian immigrant population barely doubled.

The UAE encouraged massive in-migration in the early 2000s, far in excess of the natural population increase.

As a result, the UAE has the highest proportion of international migrants in the world – a staggering 84 per cent. There are nearly twice as many Indian-born as native-born people in the UAE today.

Indians form the largest immigrant sub-group in the UAE. While official state-wise numbers are not available, the >Kerala Migration Survey says that less than a million of these are from Kerala. UAE’s laws make naturalisation and citizenship virtually impossible for Indians, and most of these workers are there on temporary visas.

Yet, this hard-working group sent nearly 13 billion dollars in remittances home in 2014.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 2:49:08 PM |

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