By Tom Arnold
Legal expert predicts more legislation in future to drive private sector jobs for Emiratis.
Unemployment among the Emirati population could rise because of a lack of jobs in the public sector to meet the number of new graduates entering the jobs market every year, according to a lawyer in the UAE.
Future legislation was expected to increasingly focus on ways to boost the number of nationals employed by private companies, said Sara Khoja, an associate with international law firm Clyde & Co in Dubai.
Currently, the public sector - the sector traditionally favoured by nationals for employment - was unable to provide sufficient jobs to cater for the 15,000 UAE nationals graduating from universities and colleges every year, she said.
There were around 90,000 unemployed nationals, with unemployment levels estimated at 15 percent among the Emirati labour force, rising to 25 percent among the 15 to 24 year old category, said Khoja, quoting figures from a World Bank report, ‘The road not travelled’.
With as many as 38 percent of nationals under 15 years of age, unemployment figures could rise further, she said.
Only 14,000 nationals were employed in the private sector, according to the World Bank figures.
“The public sector cannot generate enough jobs to employ the growing number of graduates,” she said.
“The government is really trying to push UAE nationals to go into the private sector and to push employers in the private sector to take those UAE nationals.
“We will find more and more legislation coming out to force employers to take that on.”
At present, under article nine and 10 of the UAE labour law, employers in the private sector have a general duty to employ nationals before considering a foreign candidate.
In addition, the Ministry of Labour is not supposed to grant work permits for foreigners for jobs if there is a UAE national registered with the ministry who could fill the same role, said Khoja.
Under specific annual quotas for each sector, banking had a duty to recruit four percent nationals, insurance five percent and the retail and trade sector two percent.
Higher administration fees for employers with more expatriates in their workforce was another way the government tried to encourage firms to employ nationals, she said.
As an alternative to imposing penalties on the private sector, there had been a suggestion that firms pay a levy towards a government fund to be spent on education, training and vocational placements to better marry the education system with the private sector, she said.
She said a problem highlighted by the World Bank report was that the UAE’s education system was not equipping young people with sufficient skills to fill private sector jobs, despite the government investing heavily in education.
It had established the Emirates Council for Emiratisation which worked with the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority to encourage better training for UAE nationals moving into the private sector.
Oh, I'm sure the powers-that-be will easily be able to create a few thousands new public sector jobs. Emiratis needing government jobs? No problem: First there was the RTA, then Salik, then the Emirates ID Card... creating another committee or department of some sorts will provide thousands of new jobs... right?
The private sector cannot be viewed as a bottomless pit of wealth to be plundered as a charity for unemployed emiratis. The private sector is already deep in recession, with many companies already struggling to survive. Trying to force more locals into private companies through legislation or punitive taxes will only load up struggling private sector companies with further costs right when they need to downsize. Even the prospect of such measures is already acting as a barrier to companies who might wish to enter the market. I personally know people who are interested in moving businesses to Dubai now that rental costs are subsiding, but cannot take the risk when they would get hit with new laws forcing additional costs on them. Further forced emiratization will not create jobs, it will destroy companies, taking all the jobs with it - local and foreign. The only way long term to get emiratis working is to reduce expectations to realistic levels, improve skills and work ethic. Companies go to Singapore because of the attractiveness of the local labour pool there. No one comes to start a company in Dubai for that reason sadly. It will take a cultural shift to change this.
So why the UAE National allowance....... pay a marketing exec AED7k per month and layer on top a UAE National allowance of AED10k............ In private sector companies, all they want to pay is the AED7k because that is the true value of the service & competences being provided. Fix the allowance, make the Nationals compete for jobs and educate them properly. Having interviewed many Nationals in the past, the ladies will outshine the men in future, given half a chance to succed. Most business in Dubai is conducted in English - makes it easy for companies to employ English speakers but difficult for Emiratis to adapt to because reading, writing and speaking a different language takes time - and the education in schools and universities is just not getting them to where they need to be before leaving to join the commercial world........
It is truly sad to see such a proud people backed by an impressive heritage resort to "quotas" to keep them employed. Generations of emiratis will be forever dependent on the state for handouts disguised as work placements. These proud people will know they are in the role despite their capability and experience. This approach does not develop competitiveness, rather it stifles and constrains it. Why work hard when you are offered every material thing that you desire? True leadership faces up to the hard questions. For the sake of these kind, generous and family oriented tribes folk, I hope and pray that their leadership has the courage to tackle the real underlying issues rather than embarrass and shame their people into roles when they are clearly not competitive.
I have been in Dubai for many years and this is an ongoing problem. One of the key reasons why Emirati's will not want to join the private sector is obviously because they would have to work longer and harder than in the public sector. Most people, if they are honest and don't mind being bored, would opt for working a half day for the same or better salary, than take a full time pressurised job for less pay in the private sector. Unless this distortion is addressed, things will continue as they are and it will only be ambitious Emiratis who will want to join the private sector. A recent experience at Emirates ID Centre disappointed me greatly, as I waited from 6.45am to 4pm and observed leisurely coffee breaks and shift changes, with no work ethic or concern from the employees whatsoever. I had hoped after all these years that things had changed and that I would be greeted with efficiency, but that was not the case. The private sector is competitive and must strive for excellence and efficiency, and until Emirati's understand that concept, they will not be sought after by the private sector. Unfortunately the Government is to blame for not changing the education system many years ago. Well rounded, aware students will be those who are encouraged to think and form opinions about worldly subjects and be given the freedom of expression to debate and express them. How can they become worldly if they are not educated in a stimulating environment, and their entire family works in the public sector? I speak to many other private sector business owners on a daily basis and they share the same sentiments.
I recently went to the DEWA office just off Sheikh Zayed Road to get the final bill for my previous residence. Allow me to narrate my experience there and I will let you infer the rest. On arrival, I took a token number A36 and then promptly realised it was the wrong button I'd pressed, so took another token number C27. I then sat down to wait with the other people who were there. For the next 10 mins, no new number was called.... it was a quarter past 9 at this time. Then one of the counters buzzed and the number A40... and I thought, hey, hang on a minute.... something's not right here. Anyway, then I realised it was the C27 token that I should be waiting for... so resumed my wait. Eventually, another counter buzzed and it was C22. Ah, I thought... thats the counter I should be watching. So I waited. And I waited. In between every person that was called, was a good 5 to 10 minute wait. Finally, C27 is called and I walk up to the counter. I can see the lady's monitor and realise that for the last 5 mins before calling me, she has been checking her private email and is looking at some photos someone's sent her. Great! When she finally turns to me, its to say - Oh, this is the wrong counter. Final Bills are not done here, you need another token. Err.. how about NO!? I've taken - inadvertantly, yet fortuitously - BOTH the tokens available and neither one of them is it? So she says... oh, you need the one with the code Axx... so I say, yes, I do have a token with an "A" code on it.. .but it was A36 and the number that next came up on the counter was A40!! Oh.. um.. ah... well, I dont know what to do... so then she goes to a manager to ask and after much discussion, I am sent to another desk to get my Final Bill. The actual process of getting the bill takes about 5 mins. So this 5 min job took me at least an hour and a half to do, during which I had to endure the DEWA personnel ordering tea, chatting, checking their personal emails, getting the office boy to buy them biscuits etc. Dont know about anyone else, but in my (private) company, such behaviour is not tolerated and could result in my being fired!
In my opinion and pesonal experience a few bad apples have spoilt the name of Emiratis as incompetent and lazy. Whereas in my experience I have seen Emiratis in Government Sectors going out of their way to assist non-Emiratis in procedural work. But again there are a few Emiratis who like in earlier comments will waste Government time and money in personal activites instead of completing the Task at hand or assisting the person at their door or the counter. The only solution to eradicating this mindset from Emiratis is equal opportunity given to Expats to compete for their jobs, hiring and firing of Emiratis in the same way as Expats for non compliance or non performance. The issue at hand will only be solved when they also realise that they can be penalized for their lack of support or obedience in the Government Sector. The day this happens, things will change and I can bet on this that Emiratis will be looked up for their behaviour and respected by all as equally dedicated and responsible people of this country. The only solution to this issue.
We are all missing the point here, we are in the UAE. Every company (except free zone) is majority owned by a local. They know their fellow country men, surely they will employ them !!! and if not then why not ?