By Zahra Clark
Boosting private sector employment is the final frontier for Emiratisation, as the Government strives to reshape the economy around knowledge-based skills, while reducing Emiratis’ reliance on public sector work. Recent initiatives have helped, and the situation is improving, yet Emiratis still only make up 0.5 per cent of the private sector workforce. If the Government is to meet its targets and continue to reduce unemployment amongst Emiratis, this figure needs to rise dramatically.
One of the biggest barriers to boosting Emirati employment is the chronic shortage of Emirati women working in private sector roles, with female professionals still significantly more likely to opt for public sector jobs over opportunities with commercial employers. This is due to the traditionally higher status of these government jobs, and the perception that they are higher paid, offer more security and make up shorter hours than equivalent jobs in the private sector.
In general, there is still a big expectation on Emirati women to raise a family and take on the majority of the domestic responsibilities. Research by The Dubai Women Establishment last year found that 80 per cent of Emirati women do want to join the workforce, yet 42 per cent said their commitment to children forced them to leave, with 30 per cent saying that the working hours made it unviable to manage the two simultaneously.
This combination of factors is having a huge impact on female employment levels overall, with women making up 62 per cent of the unemployed population in the UAE, despite the fact that 77 per cent of women are educated to degree level. Emirati women have a huge amount to offer to the workplace and the UAE economy, yet too many are dropping out of the workforce too soon, when there is a raft of opportunities out there where they can fulfill their potential.
So, while Emiratisation has helped to increase the proportion of Emiratis in the private sector, private sector employers must take more steps to engage with Emirati women and show how they can compete with what the private sector has to offer. For example:
Emiratisation benefits everyone and quotas are just one part of the story, particularly when it comes to attracting female Emirati talent. To work effectively, it requires collaboration and a long-term approach – by both the government and the private sector.
Zahra Clark, Head of MENA Region, Tiger Recruitment