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Easing Emiratisation

Will the Absher initiative’s higher pay scales and extra days off successfully help Emiratis to work in the private sector? Eva Fernandes thinks ensuring a guarantee back to the public sector may encourage more Emiratis to try working in the private sector.

December 19, 2012 9:45 by

With 2012 drawing to a close, there has been significant attention on the efforts towards Emiratisation for the year that was and the year to come. A few weeks ago, Mashreq bank announced it has successfully nationalised all branch managers across all its branches. When the CEOs Advisory Council of the Emirates Banks Association held its annual meeting a few days ago, Emirtatisation was on top of the agenda, with the council reviewing ways to attract and retain Emirati graduates.

And then last month, at a cabinet meeting Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum declared 2013 to be the year of Emiratisation: “The most important characteristic of the founding fathers and the most important lesson we learned from them is that the citizen is the priority, and we should give importance to building humans before building edifices… the year 2013 will be a year of creating jobs for UAE nationals, that will be a national priority for which all efforts must unite.”

The recently launched Absher initiative has been receiving a lot of attention for its drive to increase Emiratisation within the private sector. The initiative focuses on job creation and training. The initiative also has implications for the salaries and the holidays for Emiratis in the private sector. Deputy Minister of Presidential Affairs Ahmad Juma Al Za’abi has said: “There’s an intention from the government to narrow this gap by synchronising salaries and days off in order to boost the morale of these [Emirati] job seekers to join the private sector.”

‘Sychronising salaries and days off’ within the private sector can be disruptive to the work flow and in the end harm the very Emiratisation drive it aims to propel-especially if the non-National colleagues do not receive similar adjustments. Yet, the need to ease the transition from the working condition of the public sector to that of the private can be understood. But is increasing salaries and days off, really the way to do it?

An interesting idea was put forward at a roundtable discussion I attended. In essence, there was a call to ease the transition between public and private by ensuring a way back to the public sector.

One of the biggest reasons Emiratis prefer to stay in the public sector is the working conditions. Yet if you wanted to test new waters, understandably there would be significant trepidation of the opportunity cost. ‘If I leave my job, can I ever come back? I have a good thing going here, is it really worth the risk?’ If the drive is to encourage an appetite for working in the private sector, a solution could feature an internship-styled program which allows a public sector employee to work in the private sector to gain experience. At the end of the two year stint in the private sector, the employee will be guaranteed his job back at the public sector, or should he chose to, he could continue in his new role.

This type of security helps address the resistance to moving to the private sector far better than the higher pay scales and excessive public holidays the Absher initiative pushes for.

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