Dubai ruler presses private sector to hire Emiratis

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United Arab Emirates' Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (AFP/Getty Images).

United Arab Emirates' Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (AFP/Getty Images).

The UAE's private sector has "benefited greatly" from the country's rapid growth and as a result should do more to employ Emirati citizens, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, said.

“I call on my colleagues in the private sector that have benefited greatly from this country to extend a helping hand in the process of Emiratisation, even in a tiny percentage, to make a contribution to growth of this country,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a question and answer session at a government conference in Dubai.

Speaking at the launch of the Government Summit, the first event of its kind in the Middle East, Sheikh Mohammed revealed plans for a project to employ 120,000 UAE nationals, but did not give any further details of the timeline or specifics.

The Dubai ruler, who is also vice president of the oil-rich UAE, last year declared 2013 the ‘Year of Emiratisation’. As part of the initiative, events will be held to offer “opportunities for young Emiratis seeking to join the UAE labour force”.

Emiratis only constitute about 11 percent of the UAE's population and are heavily outnumbered by foreign nationals. The majority of UAE nationals are employed by government entities, with the official unemployment rate among Emiratis put at 14 percent.

Emiratisation is the UAE government's policy of increasing the number of UAE nationals working in both the public and private sector.

In his speech, Sheikh Mohammed praised the work of Emiratis in the UAE government.

“Government employees are the engines of our achievements. They are the energy that fuels our development. I encourage them to keep on working with excellence and innovation. I am calling on all our employees to focus on acquiring knowledge and the right training needed to serve our country. Our employees need a competitive work environment where they should be supported, recognised and handed authority that allows them to perform better,” he said.

In an earlier discussion, Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist and Head of The Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Network at the World Economic Forum, said the UAE and governments in the region needed to do more to encourage locals to enter the private sector and develop a culture of entrepreneurship.

“It is still too attractive to work for the government,” Blanke said. “I am not saying you don’t want to have good people working in the government but it needs to be attractive to be able to set up your own business.

“This is not just a problem in the Middle East; it is a problem in many countries. Fostering a culture of entrepreneurship is very important.”

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Posted by: Glen

What about considering a 12 month National Service Program to allow, firstly any unemployed Emarati to serve the nation in many areas of service such as Police, Army, Civil Defence to get firsthand experience in these areas and some of them may decide to stay and man those critical areas which should always be in the hands of citizens, not expatriates.

Females need not be excluded, they could do national service in nursing, teaching, healthcare as well as other areas where care is needed to nationals.

These individuals would then be equiped to serve the nation in times of need and would have a record of service and a period of mentoring to go out into the market and seek employment.

With 14% unemployment this would guarantee gainful employment for at least a year and create a pool of Emiratis who are ready for any eventuality including opportunities in the UAE's private sector.

Posted by: Dubai Living

Baffy is right.......make all the labour laws for locals and non-locals alike which includes the disciplinary procedures and laws. The playing field should be level.....

Posted by: Steady

The trick is in hiring Emarati's at the top in companies like Vehicle dealerships, Construction companies, Contracting companies and Real Estate Companies. These are generalist positions not demanding specialized tertiary level of education or training but largely vocational training. These jobs which are primarily western expat occupied currently are cushy which locals would be happy to occupy and the number of these positions is proportionate to the numbers of employable locals. This would also avoid the culture clash which western expats bring to the table! It is obvious that the biggest GDP drivers of the economy like Tourism and Real Estate are now GCC, Asian and African dependent which suites the cultural priorities of this country!

Posted by: The Consultant

These positions all require hard-gained experience, commerical acumen and keen negotiating skills, arguably these are harder skills to acquire than a university degree (although I think you will find that most of the expats running these companies have one of those as well). Far from being "cushy" it is a job that requires strong performance and if the financial results dip the manager is likely to be out of a job. Any of the Emiratis that have the skills and experience to do these jobs successfully are probably already running major divisions of large SOE's or government departments.

It should also be noted that many of the largest private companies of the types you mention are owned by Emirati families. If they had suitable local candidates to run their businesses I'm sure they would have put them in place by now.

Posted by: Thamir Ghaslan

The best thing to happen in Saudi recently is that HR is largely performed by Saudis. This role can accept high school all the way to MBAs. The amount of nepotism on how certain nationalities will bring in their own disregarding merits and locals when they hold this function has been reduced. I guess Emaratis can start by nationalizing this critical function.

Posted by: Saif

We strongly believe that the only remedy to the arrogance of our expats and the only remedy that they understand and make them attentive is to apply fines and restrictions/quotas on this influx from Asia, anything else will prove futile.

Posted by: Sam from Canada

@SPP..
Sure they can work under the sun! All you need to do is shade and air condition the whole site, bring in automatic drills and screws where all they really need to do is push a soft button.

That might just work. And oh...cant be a shift longer than 30 minutes a day, with free refreshments (likely being served by expats).

Hello tomorrow....we hope ;)

Posted by: Nirsly

@Sam and SPP

And in Canada and the US it's not the Mexicans and Asians who pick up the garbage, work in construction, pick grapes, fill up gas, and about everything else.

We've been there, we've seen, and we found you lacking.

Posted by: Sam from Canada

Its not the expats (generally) who have the "arrogance" problem.

Also, let us not be naive - the day locals can make do without the expats (which likely wont be for the next 50+ years, if even then), you guys wont be giving visas to any either. The ONLY reason UAE allows expats is because you guys cant do without them, (I guess you don't want to go back to fishing for a livelihood).

Also, I assure you most (Asian) expats cant wait to leave the UAE for Canada or other Immigration-granting countries; and the day they get a green light to immigrate, they will fly away - weather you/your businesses are ready for them to leave, or not.

Posted by: Ambuj

I personally believe that we expats owe a sense of duty towards the UAE local community. After all its their country and we are here to earn our livelihood. We progressing with the local population finding it difficult to make ends meet would be unethical on our part. The best way would be to take them along by walking the extra mile. After all if they are happy we can be happy.

With my interaction with the local community, I find them as good as any other nationality in any sphere of life. However, over protectionism could take away the drive to compete.

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