UAE mulls law changes to boost Emirati jobs

Labour minister said to be taking action to encourage more Emiratis to enter private sector

UAE Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash.

UAE Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash.

The UAE is considering changes to its labour law to attract more citizens into the private sector, local media reported on Saturday, to lessen the burden of a bloated public sector in case of a fall in oil prices.

Many Emiratis prefer to work in the public sector, where working hours are shorter, holidays longer and pay tends to be higher, while foreign workers, who account for the majority of the oil-rich Gulf state's population, fill most private sector positions.

To prepare for any future downturn in oil prices and to avert political discontent, leaders in the UAE and other Gulf states are taking steps to rebalance their employment structures.

Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash will present the government with a review of the current labour law "shortly", the local al-Khaleej newspaper reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources.

The review would include proposals to bring private and public sector salaries into line, as well as increasing private sector holidays, it said.

"The aim is to reach a compromise that will do justice to Emirati employees and at the same time will satisfy businessmen and company owners, so that Emiratisation be a real addition, rather than seen as a burden or that it becomes too costly," al-Khaleej reported.

Just over 11 percent of the UAE's estimated 8.3 million people are citizens, and most of the rest are foreign workers.

The jobless rate among Emiratis is put officially at 14 percent. UAE citizens are conferred generous benefits, receiving free government education, health care and assistance in housing.

At a forum earlier this week, the UAE's prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, told hundreds of officials that finding jobs for its citizens was one of the government's top priorities.

His deputy Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the Ministry of Labour had been tasked with adjusting working hours and days of the private sector to make them more appealing to Emiratis.

While the government can afford to pay high public sector salaries and unemployment benefits and to bear the cost of hiring foreigners while oil prices are high, it knows its finances could be strained in the long term if oil prices fall.

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Posted by: Tom Pattillo

The challenge: It is not jobs or increasing the percentage of Emirati Nationals in the private workforce. It is about starting to commit to creating a way to view work, life, purpose and citizenship. And starting that slowly. Organizational culture change (Kotter comes to mind), is not a new concept, but it does require a leap into reality. There are Emirati men and women who will dare to leap into reality. I have met them, I have worked with them, I have taught them, and I believe in them. I have nothing to gain by this, I am not in this for the money. I am just sick to death of all the words, and none of the actions. There are too many "experts" who are making fortunes on preventing the change (while professing commitment to such a change). Arab men do not like to lose face. Arab men will accept advice, but will not accept responsibility: and the so-called experts know this, manipulate this, and play on this. I have tried, I have a great idea that Emirati women think is feasible. ??

Posted by: Abdullatif Awadh

This is a positive approach from the UAE Government. I am a UAE national and have worked in the private sector. @RBH there is no shame in working at any level. I can speak for myself as my first job in my study leave both high school and college was working in a plastic bag factory earning AED 500 a month for an 8 hour job seven days a week. I also did running around placing flyers on cars earning minimal wage. Yes I have grown into a management role now by Allah's grace, but that is my history I am proud of. Look at the successful business men from UAE like Sajwani and his history, they all started small.

Posted by: RBH

Very good, let's have local maids, waitors, bartenders, office boys... it's about time, anyway!

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