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Patience and the private sector
A new study will underline the need for UAE nationals to embrace the private sector as an employer. Making that happen might be difficult, but it’sessential, says Sam Potter.
June 6, 2010 2:33 by Samuel Potter
What incentive is there for Emirati workers to enter the private sector? I know if the kind of packages offered in public sector jobs in the UAE were offered to me, I wouldn’t think twice. Good pay, generous holidays, job security, shorter days – everything the private sector so often fails to provide.
But now, a new study is set to claim that the number of Emirati’s working in the UAE public sector is reaching saturation point, reports the National. Compiled by researchers from the UAE University, the study will be published later this year. It says the state can no longer act as an employer of first and last resort, and over-reliance on the government for employment is simply not feasible. As one of the authors points out, “The dream of most of my students is to work in the municipality. That’s not going to help the country and it’s not going to be possible.”
Which means the private sector must be the way forward. At present, Emiratis make up just 4 percent of the private sector workforce, compared with 52 percent of the public sector, says the report. The new study calls for the government to switch its policies towards subsidization of private sector wages and education reform to combat the ingrained preference for public sector jobs. This would be a dramatic and welcome shift away from the policy of Emiratisation quotas, which place a large burden on private companies.
But the lucrative career path available in the public sector is, of course, just one factor in this equation. In April, papers reported that 60 percent of all Emiratis who have worked in the private sector resigned, citing lack of career progress as the main factor in their decision.
Though I don’t know the details of every resignation, it’s hard for me to avoid the conclusion that many Emirati employees may have had unrealistic expectations when it comes to career progression (and I am not alone). For those of us firmly embedded in the private sector, the accepted fact is that progression takes much time, no little effort, and an awful lot of patience. Perhaps, given what’s on offer to them in the public sector, private sector careers come nowhere near expectations (at least in the early years) for Emiratis.
To solve this problem, then, the new study is right. The government must adapt its policies to encourage (rather than force) Emirati integration into the private sector, including an attempt to re-educate the population not just about the importance of the private sector, but also about the way a career in business or industry is likely to progress.
It may not satisfy those who expected an immediately lucrative job in the public sector, but unfortunately the private sector is the only practical way forward.