Call for cautious Emiratisation

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Emiratis should first have the qualifications and expertise to compete in both government and private sectors.

"It is very easy to impose Emiratisation. We can do this any time, but what would we gain if we did not provide our youth with the best knowledge, skill and expertise to commensurate with these jobs?" asked His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, as he presented the strategy in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

He criticised the Minister of Labour, who has issued a number of decrees to Emiratise certain jobs - such as secretarial positions and public relation officers - within two years. "I appreciate his dedication and enthusiasm, but his decisions were not successful because they ignored reality as well as the nation's priorities. One such decision was emiratising secretarial jobs. As important as secretarial jobs are, and all jobs are important, we need to have UAE nationals in more important roles and responsibilities."

Shaikh Mohammad said the same applies to the decree on Emiratising the positions of human resource managers within 18 months. "However, if we decide to place UAE nationals in such positions, we have to make sure we provide them with the required knowledge and expertise. Our success in achieving this goal is tied to the extent we develop UAE skills and talents."

Shaikh Mohammad stressed the need for real and effective emiratisation, as part of a comprehensive plan that integrates federal and local efforts. It should set the priorities, he said, as well as outline the necessary training programmes.

Protection of labourers

The strategic plan also aims to develop stable policies that regulate the labour market, including a set of standards for the work environment and labourers' housing. Development of the government's inspection capabilities, to ensure that labour laws are enforced and the rights of all parties are protected, is also part of the plan.

"We will not leave the population and labour issues without resolving them comprehensively. Labour laws and regulations will be developed and measures will be taken to ensure full implementation across the country," Shaikh Mohammad said.

"Penalties will become stricter in order to deter violations, as no exception will be allowed whatsoever."

He also asked why the UAE has such a high rate of illegal labourers - 300,000 - according to the estimates provided by the labour ministry.

He followed that with instructions to take tougher action against all those who hire illegal labourers and that strict penalties, which could include imprisonment, should be introduced. "Those who violate labour laws endanger national security, threaten the stability of the economy and the labour market, and ruin the country's reputation. We will never allow this to happen."

Social focus

The government strategy seeks to move from the concept of social welfare to social development, enhance cooperative work, develop the concept of non-profit social organisations, strengthen family counselling and offer enhanced support to women and children with special needs programmes.

Some 54 per cent of the beneficiaries under the social security law, roughly 18,000 Emiratis, are of working age and this number is expected to increase.

"How can we integrate those people into the development process and transform them into productive and effective members of society. The country needs their potential, as much as they need work to fulfil their humanitarian role in life. The government's duty is to give these people a chance to be productive and useful, by providing suitable training, enhancing productive family programmes and funding small businesses.

Shaikh Mohammad stressed that the society has to bear responsibility for the population imbalance between Emiratis and expatriate workers.

"Domestic help accounts for 10 per cent of the total labour force in the UAE, a very high figure for which society in general, and Emiratis in particular, are responsible. The number of domestic help in some families exceeds the size of the family itself. Most families maintain a number of domestic help which is beyond their actual need."

The UAE also faces a problem with labour engaged in marginal economic activities, according to Shaikh Mohammad.

"We have to take immediate measures to stop giving licenses to activities that have no defined impact on the national economy. The government's solutions are mainly centred around encouraging our youth, though projects such as ?Aswaaq', that relies on the latest technology to reduce the reliance on marginal labour and creates investment opportunities for young Emiratis."

Plan: Job categories for Emiratis to be revised

Ali Abdullah Ali Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, said, "Shaikh Mohammad has noted that the Ministry of Labour is exerting remarkable efforts, and I am happy that he pointed this out. However, along the way some mistakes might have been made, and usually this is followed by a correction.

"So Emiratisation of some of the job categories will be revised accordingly, especially for the human resources, as we might set a condition that the foreigner cannot be the manager, or we might think of a shadowing programme through employing an Emirati in every human resources department.

"We have established a joint committee with Tanmia to draft the new decree in a practical and applicable manner, and next week we will meet with the UAE strategy team to put the general framework." Originally published by Ahmed A. Elewa, Staff Reporter.

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