As rents soar Indian construction workers return home

Just thinking about his rent makes Karunakaran Gopalan want to leave his job as a mechanical engineer in Abu Dhabi and return to his newly built house in Kerala.

“I want to finish paying off my loans and then run away,” says Mr Gopalan, who works for Al Ryum General Contracting. “Accommodation and school costs are killer blows.”

For decades the UAE’s Dh175 billion construction industry has relied on expatriate Indian workers and professionals such as Mr Gopalan to build the skyscrapers, shopping malls and hotels that dominate the skylines of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

But now a building boom at home driven by the economic reforms of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, is encouraging many would-be Indian emigrants to stay in India – forcing employers throughout the UAE to look farther afield to fill positions.

A second interest rate cut in India last week was the latest boost for the expanding construction sector, which the IMF expects to help propel GDP growth of 6.5 per cent next year.

“We haven’t hired any new Indian labourers. It’s difficult because the salary of labourers in India is more than before,” said Mahmoud Irshaid, a project manager at Abu Dhabi-based Al Mezin General Contracting.

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