Immigrants have enriched economies and societies of host countries – such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – with their skills for a long time. They were able to attract foreign talent by granting them citizenship through immigration process.
It is said that the economy of the US grows faster when they relax immigration rules and induct more immigrants. Its growth slows down when the country tightens immigration rules – among other economic factors. So, there is almost a direct co-relation between the induction of foreign talent and economic growth.
Economically speaking, skilled professionals and entrepreneurs help an economy expand through their skills, financial and other resources. If a company hires 100 new professionals, it adds about 400 new consumers. However, the employment of 100 professionals would have a multiplier effect on the company’s bottom-line – and help it expand.
Similarly, when an entrepreneur starts a business in a foreign country, he generates wealth and distributes part of it – as salary to employees and dividends to shareholders – which then flows into the economy.
An economy holding its own
So, every time an immigrant enters a foreign country, he or she starts to contribute to the economy. This is how the UAE benefitted and expanded its economy to become the second biggest Arab economy after Saudi Arabia – with a mere 9.6 million people, about 88 per cent of them being foreigners – and pushing Egypt to the third place among 22 Arab countries.
China and India are the leading suppliers of talent to the Western countries. Instead of attracting talent, they were losing them. The Gulf countries over the decades have benefitted from foreign workers, professionals, investors and entrepreneurs, most of whom have become part and parcel of the society. Despite their affinity to the region, for decades, they all remained foreigners, expatriates, or ‘aliens’ – as some newspaper reports would label them – until a few years ago.
As the economies mature, the Gulf countries needed to re-think strategies to spearhead economic growth. Banking on oil or trading is no longer an option as the economies have started to shift from brick-and-mortar to digital. With oil prices declining, the Gulf countries needed a fresh strategy to lift the economy, even before the COVID-19 hit.
Expand the talent hunt
The introduction of the 10-year Golden Visa in 2019, in this context, has not only changed the situation, it has, in many ways, changed people’s mindset. It broke the taboo that long-term visa was impossible in this region. The immigration reforms announced earlier this year – including granting citizenship and extending the 10-year Golden Visas to talented students, professionals, coders, journalists, doctors, engineers – is going to be the biggest game-changer for the UAE.
Similarly, running businesses in mainland without a local partner – either active or ‘sleeping’ – was deemed impossible. Today, all of that has changed and is going to not only change the UAE economy, but the country’s society – where we see Emiratis and expatriates socialize and undertake joint initiatives. It will strengthen the UAE’s position as ‘a melting pot of cultures’ in its true sense.
The UAE has been a land of opportunity for nationals as well as foreigners. The country is opening its doors to the global software developer community, or coders, by offering them 10-year Golden Visa. The number of coders – who have been re-shaping the business landscapes by expanding the e-commerce and digital businesses – worldwide is projected to increase from 23 million in 2018 to 28.7 million in 2024, according to Statista, a global intelligence provider.
A full-scale digital economy
The Golden Visa and Citizenship reform programme will see thousands of talented coders, students, teachers, academicians, professionals relocate to the UAE. This will fuel the growth of the UAE’s innovation-driven knowledge economy that will change the country’s position in the global economy.
The future will belong to those countries that invest in innovation and talents. The future will belong to the UAE, thanks to the recent series of initiatives announced by the Government – which will transform it from an oil-dependent economy to an innovation-driven knowledge and digital economy.
The UAE will always be known as a ‘Land of Opportunity’ and a ‘Land of Immigrants’. However, right now, it is perhaps the leading country in Asia to formally include immigrants into its government strategy for the future.
Now, we all can expect the next economic boom with a shared destiny…
The writer is Chairman of Danube Group.