Labour Law Amendments to Increase Emiratisation

The attempts to get more UAE natives working in the private sector are getting tied up due to the different expectations of the expatriate management and the employed nationals.

In a recent poll done by YouGovSiraj aimed at businesses and gauging active support of the policy of Emiratisation, Abdullah al Darmaki noted that the work of Emiratisation, a “main policy pillar,” should cut back on unemployment.  Al Darmaki, who is the general manager for the Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council, also noted that the area needs additional attention to work well.

He said that the challenge is in assisting companies to find UAE nationals who are qualified for their positions and it is equally important to help Emiratis reach that level of qualification.

  The economic survey done annually by YouGovSiraj reported that 13 per cent of businesses surveyed claimed to support the Emiratisation program completely.  A further 67 per cent said that if nationals matched the qualifications and were willing to work under the same conditions and rate of pay as the expatriates currently available, they would support the program as well.  Those not in support of the program were counted at 13 per cent and a further seven per cent answered that they were unsure.

Over half of the businesses who took the poll currently have nationals on staff.  For those who do not employ Emiratis, reasons such as high expectations for salaries, improper qualifications and an unwilling attitude towards working extended hours were blamed.

There is detailed training available for potential Emirati employees.  This training is held at the Tawteen Council office close to the Department of Finance, where a thorough interview by employment counseling staff is conducted to connect the nationals with businesses in need of their skill set.

Al Darmaki explained that the first step in the program is for Tawteen to examine the available positions to ensure that the qualifications stated are truly required.  Once that is established, a specific program is put together for potential applicants.  On the other end, Tawteen works with prospective employees to help them acquire the proper qualifications through contact with educational groups.

He also quickly countered those claims stating that nationals have a reputation for securing jobs they do not actually have the qualifications for.  The practice of certain businesses to raise skill requirements to artificial levels in an effort to discourage the hiring of Emiratis was also mentioned by al Darmaki, although he admitted that practice is slowly changing.

Work experience has more weight than qualifications and the programs in place are working towards that more applicants reaching that goal.  A major portion of the national population is 25 to 35 years old.  Although this will change over the next decade, today’s Emiratis need to be getting the proper experience, according to al Darmaki.

Education is the other major policy goal in the government’s site, along with Emiratisation.  The lay out and landscape of the education system is what has created the current situation, al Darmaki said, and the government views improvements to that system as an important priority, thereby providing nationals with the education to get jobs in the growing economy of today.

Education was another issue raised in the survey.  When answering whether the current education system was adequately preparing nationals for employment in the private sector, only 24 per cent replied in the affirmative.  A full 44 per cent answered in the negative and 32 per cent were recorded as being unsure.
Nearly 40 per cent of businesses polled stated that local grads lacked skills in mathematics and nearly 50 per cent stated that they lacked English skills.  Also, 75 per cent of businesses polled noted the nationals lack an “ability to work under pressure.”

Al Darmaki noted that although the UAE is a nation of learning, they are also a country of young people and have a different culture rising up.  Issues need to be overcome in this mix.

The presence of women in the workforce has changed significantly in the last five years.  As talks of part-time labor move forward the potential for even more women becoming employed climbs.

A law regarding part-time work will have an effect on a large portion of Emiratis, according to al Darmaki.  He noted that the possibility of women working shorter four hour shifts and the opportunities for commuters to find employment should increase.

Issues of cultural and economic differences between nationals and foreign employers still need to be overcome.  Although the UAE is a modern economy, the cultural differences cannot be avoided.  Some nationals require flexible hours due to familial responsibilities.  Also higher salary expectations for nationals are often due to the fact that they are the sole earner in an extended family.

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