Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of Dubai, attends the World Government Summit in DubaiReuters

The increased rate at which Gulf Arab countries are nationalizing jobs has emerged as a direct threat for Indian expatriates in the region. After Saudi Arabia and Oman, the emirate of Dubai has also said more jobs will be nationalized in 2019.

The nationalisation of jobs increased a whopping 200 percent in Dubai in 2018, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE's Vice President and Prime Minister, said in a twitter post.

"Today I presided over a cabinet meeting in which we reviewed the outcome of 2018 and the plan for 2019. The localisation of jobs accelerated by 200% in 2018, and we want to double the effort in 2019," said Sheikh Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai.

There are approximately 2 million Indians living and working in the United Arab Emirates.

Though Dubai rulers had launched a jobs nationalisation drive in 1999 it remained minimal for many years. However, the 2008 financial crisis prompted the authorities to diversify the economy and nudge more nationals to pick up jobs in the private sector. The Gulf Arab citizens have been averse to joining the private sector owing to factors like poor wages and more stringent working conditions.

Government jobs are seen as an entitlement in the region, and there's great reliance on the welfare model. Sheikh Maktoum said the government was still focusing heavily on welfare measures for the citizens. 

"We have granted 7,000 homes for citizens in 2018 and we are working with local governments to ensure that every citizen has a decent home to live in," the ruler said after a cabinet meeting.

"We also launched policies for families, women, youth and senior citizens in 2018 and promise everyone that the citizen will remain the first, second and third priority in 2019 and in all years to come," he added.

Blue collar workforce to rise

Increased jobs nationalisation is a direct threat to Indian expatriates working in sectors like health, hospitality, tourism and trading. The inflow of blue collar workers to the Gulf will continue for foreseeable future given the surge of construction projects, but Indians over the years have concentrated more on the services sectors.

Data of the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO) showed last month that blue-collar migrant workers continue adding to the labour force of the Gulf Arab emirates.

"The demand for male workers in the Arab states explains the sharp increase in the share of migrant workers in this region. Many of these workers are manual labourers, located mostly in the construction sector," ILO's labour economist Natalia Popova told Al Jazeera.

However, the jobs that disappear in the region are from health, hospitality, petrochemicals, trading and tourism.

Last week, it was reported that Saudi Arabia would accelerate the jobs nationalisation in the coming years.

The Kingdom, which employs hundreds of thousands of Indians, has been on a drive to curtail expatriate work forces the key grocery sector, among others.

Grocery is one job sector that's predominantly run by expatriates from India. Targeting this sector would directly impact the remittances to India and render tens of thousands of expatriates, mostly those from Kerala, jobless.