Unemployment among Emirati youth - findings of Emirates Foundation sponsored research

Unemployment in the UAE is currently around 12%, and may well be even higher amongst Emirati youth, a factor that will continue to challenge policymakers seeking to avoid future social problems.

This is one of the conclusions of a new study by the International Council on Security and Development (ICoS), after their 12- month research project into youth unemployment in the UAE.

ICoS is the dedicated think-tank of the Network of European Foundations - Mercator Fund, which examines links between social issues like unemployment, and public and global security concerns.

Mr. Salim Binbrek, ICoS Global Policy Manager, and his team of Emirati researchers surveyed 310 male and female Emiratis between the ages of 16 and 26 to determine their perceptions of the causes and effects of youth unemployment in the UAE and their recommendations for improvements.

Representatives from the Abu Dhabi Emiratisation Council, Tanmia, the Dubai School of Government, Zayed and UAE Universities, and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority of Dubai were present last week to hear the findings, as were the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy), which jointly sponsored the research.

The research questions covered the views of the young Emiratis on education, the labour market and the role of the UAE government - as well as more personal questions on how unemployment makes them feel and what they perceive to be the ideal working environment.

On the social and emotional aspects of unemployment, 58% of the young people surveyed mentioned feelings of frustration, insecurity and depression. A similar number said they were resentful at finding themselves unemployed. Some differences were noted between the male and female respondents, with the young women feeling less pressure to find work than the men but also feeling that they had fewer career options.

Secondary education in the UAE was commented on by a large number of those surveyed, with many of them saying that secondary schools and higher education establishments did not adequately prepare students for the realities of work. They called for improvements to the teaching of both Arabic and English - over a third of those surveyed felt that their insufficient command of English was a factor in their unemployment, while a quarter felt that their Arabic needed improvement.

The young people surveyed also felt a need for better career advice in schools and the teaching of practical skills relevant to the market place. Higher education in the UAE was, however, praised by many of the female respondents compared to their male counterparts.

When questioned about job prospects, most of the young Emiratis expressed a preference to work in the public sector. They were critical of many aspects of working in the private sector, which they perceive to offer low salaries, minimal job security and long working hours.

They do, however, feel that the private sector offers better career and personal development. 45% of those surveyed would consider working in the private sector and many others would consider it if working conditions were more favourable - higher salaries, shorter working hours and more training programmes were cited by many.

Other recommendations made by the survey respondents included more training opportunities, greater motivation amongst job seekers, and improving Emiratisation efforts - Emirati youth want and expect government intervention throughout the process of employment and education.

Dr. Mona Al Bahar, the Senior Executive Advisor for the Emirates Foundation's Social Development Programme, said, "By identifying the causes of youth unemployment, the data and findings of this project will be invaluable in improving the employment prospects of Emirati youth in the future." Originally published by AME Info.

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