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How will emiratization succeed?

How will emiratization succeed?

The UAE government is struggling to encourage more Emiratis to work in the private sector. But they will first have to change the educational and labor conditions in the country, say analysts.

February 12, 2010 10:43 by

Shifa Salem, an Emirati pursuing her Masters in Educational Leadership at Zayed University, is extremely ambitious, has high aspirations, and wants to develop her professional career. But when asked if she would work in the public sector or the private sector, her response is immediate.

“The public sector,” she says, arguing that working for the government offers better pay and job security.

But what if a private sector role is more tailored to Salem’s qualifications, and will give her a chance to achieve her dreams better?

“If I am stable in my financial status, and I find something that will really develop my career path in the private sector, then I might go for it,” she says.

Salem’s opinion, mirrored by many other young Emiratis like her, is one of the reasons that the government’s emiratization program has still not significantly boosted the number of UAE nationals entering the private sector.  According to recent figures, 80 percent of the UAE nationals work in public sector. The reasons for this are obvious: the salaries are better (the UAE cabinet recently granted a 70 percent pay rise for nationals working in the federal government), the hours are usually shorter, and the jobs are secure.

An estimated 12 percent of the Emiratis are unemployed, according to the International Council on Security and Development. A primary reason for this is that UAE nationals tend to pursue employment in the public sector, rather than the more diverse private sector.

“They know that they will have a chance in the public sector,” says Salem. “I think they have hope, and they are given hope. I think that as an Emirati, the message that I get is that there is a space for me in the governmental sector.”

Salem points out that Emiratis who are choosy about finding a particular kind of job could face a long search – but those who broaden their criteria have many jobs to choose from.

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  1. Kevin on February 13, 2010 6:33 am

    I like the article which is a very balanced one. The root cause if I may add is education (not the degree type) but the education of dignity of labour, equality, equal opportunities, workers rights etc.

    The policy adopted by the government i must say is flawed. If you incentivice for lazyness, for being a national, for ineffency etc you are going to get a young generation who has no motivation to excell.

    Private sector is competitive and Emaratis should learn to rough it out and succeed. After all the expats will come in droves only when there is opportunity. Once the shift happens which we are seeing there will be a reverse flow. This will hurt the nation and they need to gear up and face reality.

    So the solution would be to make it an equal opportunity market, provide permanent residence to expats and include them in the day to day running of the country like it happens in other countries. A tall order one might say, but a visionary leader will do just that for his people. Make them competent.

  2. Khizer Daar on February 13, 2010 7:23 am

    The approach currently being used by the Emirati government is completely ridiculous. Changing and creating laws to make the private sector more appealing to the average Emirati does not work to their benefit at all. In fact, it only encourages the same unproductive and complacent mind set that the general Emirati population has been so famously criticized for. The only difference will be that they will be contaminating the private sector with the same substandard work ethic. Salaries and employment opportunities shouldn’t be tied to nationality, but rather productivity and merit. This would give Emiratis motivation to work harder and be able to compete with expatriates on an even playing field. Otherwise, employers in the private sector will never see any incentive to hire an emirati over an expatriate because one is skilled and productive (the Expatriates) and the other is lazy and stupid because there is simply no motivation whatsoever to be any different (the Locals). Forgive my generalizations, but for the most part this is the reality.

  3. jazzy jo on February 13, 2010 8:22 am

    One other factor that attracts UAE nationals to the public sector are public
    holidays. For eg in the banking sector, public holidays such as EID
    holidaysand others are way shorter than the public sectors because
    holidays are governed by the UAE Central Bank.Holidays for both public & private
    sectors needs to be standardized. Families tend to encouage their children to join
    the public sector due to work /life balance and so families can spend quality time
    and pursue other interests such as education, hobby or start of a business.

    One main factor why the emirtisation strategy placed for the banking
    sector has failed is the fact the authorities have failed to differetiate
    between private and local banks. The annual mandatory 4% quote of
    recruting nationals was just not fair for the private banks who
    had restrictions on the number of branches they could open in the. UAE.
    Where as, the local bank had no restrictions whatsoever.Employing 4 %
    annually was a struggle for the private banks.

    Even when career fairs exist in Shj, Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc.., yes, you will
    see more Emirati’s at the stands of the public / local based companies to apply for jobs. However said ,Emiratisation has come a long way in the
    banking sector.

    The global financial crisies has played a major part now a days for private
    companies who mostly have seized to employ in these current circumstances)
    to recruit Emirati’s due to some of the reasons included in the above article and
    cutting cost ofcourse.Emirati’s have to be flexible and open to private sector if jobs
    arise as there are not much jobs available in the public sector othewise not only will
    they be unemployed but may take the risk of loosing their skills and their degree could
    be obsolete after being out of the workplace for so long. This will further have a big
    impact their chances of finding a job, let alone ‘a suitable one’
    A very concerned Emirati.

  4. Rob on February 13, 2010 3:41 pm

    The government approach to Emiratization is exactly backwards. As an Expat Professor, I deal with students everyday. The Emirati women are very bright, and far more motivated than men. The men feel “entitled”. They think things should be given to them by the government. In most countries, young people get ahead in life by working hard. In the UAE, many, not all, Emiratis think they do not have to work hard, because they will be taken care of. The UAE should cut back on government jobs, reduce gov salaries to market, and allow the private sector to fire lazy employees. The era of entitlement would be over quickly.

  5. KHALIL on February 14, 2010 5:53 am


  6. Andrew on February 14, 2010 7:45 am

    What Rob said; there’s far too much of a “To the Manor Born” mentality amongst many Emiratis, overwhelmingly men. I count myself rather lucky in that about half of my close friends are Emiratis, and each and every one of them is hardworking whether working in the public or private sectors – they are however in the minority.

    The carrots haven’t worked; so how about sticks?

  7. Miss Anne Thropic on February 14, 2010 10:29 am

    Rather than throwing money at private companies to hire Emiratis, the government has to quit the welfare state mentality and make public sector salaries and conditions comparable to that of the public sector. As long as short hours, long holidays, guaranteed promotion, job security regardless of incompetence and 70 per cent payrises are the norm, there will never be any widespread hiring of Emiratis in the private sector.

    Promotion on merit in the public sector is essential too. The solutions are all so obvious but try encouraging the government to tell 20-year-old Emiratis that their starting salary as a pen-pusher for a government department will be Dh8,000 and see how far you get.

  8. marwan on February 21, 2010 6:05 pm

    Emiratis are 10% unemployed… hard task

  9. Sultan Mansour on February 24, 2010 6:57 am

    I do not know why we blame ambitious UAE Nationals for not joining the private sector? I think there are other UAE Nationals who do not have a degree and only have high school certificates but can work in the private sector effectively.

    My arguement is that, not all UAE Nationals are ambitious and have Master or Bachelor degrees, and those struggle to find a job in the public sector, so why do not we look at that segmant too?

  10. Xavier on February 28, 2010 5:59 am

    How many years now they’ve been doing this Emiratization? They even set an employment/recruitment offices only for Emiratis. Unless the government stop pampering and tolerating their locals, to work starting from the entry level, not to always start in managerial position doing nothing but to sip coffee and chit chat.

  11. Xavier on February 28, 2010 6:04 am

    Emiratis Employment:

    10% Employed and functional
    80% Employed and not functional (doing nothing)
    10% Unemployed

  12. Rashed on March 8, 2010 4:48 pm

    is there any law affect promotion in private sector in UAE


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