Plans to boost the number of Emiratis working in the United Arab Emirate’s private sector as part of the country’s ambitious ‘Projects of the 50’ have been welcomed by local recruitment and HR experts.
They say a raft of incentives will encourage more UAE nationals to explore jobs out of government sectors and into private sector roles and will strengthen the Emirati presence in cross-sector companies.
Muna Mohamed, business manager for Emiratization at recruitment specialists Hays, told Al Arabiya English: “The project shows a great commitment from the UAE to invest in the private sector, as well as a commitment to developing Emirati talent.”
She added, “The measures will support economic diversification of the UAE, as well as upskill national talent. Together, these are putting the UAE on track with its goal to become one the world’s most dynamic nations of the future.”
A better public, private balance
The program will also better balance the number of jobs held by Emiratis across the public and private sectors, she said.
“In the coming months, we therefore expect UAE national job numbers to increase significantly in the private sector and demand to be ongoing thereafter.”
Already, Hays is seeing a growing number of private employers establishing learning and development programs dedicated to Emirati hires and anticipate many more to follow suit, said Mohamed.
“The added incentives and new policies for private-sector employers to hire UAE nationals, including pension payments and child education allowances, will help bridge the gap with public sector where the majority of Emirati jobs are currently focused.”
“In turn, this will increase the capabilities of the local talent pool and establish the UAE as an attractive location for foreign businesses to invest.”
As part of the announcement, private sector companies in the UAE will have to fill 10 percent of their positions with Emirati nationals within five years.
Hana Abu Kharmeh, human resources director at Serco Middle East, said the plans will increase diversification across the Emirates.
“As part of its ‘Projects of the 50’ announcements, the UAE government revealed its plan to invest big in Emiratis working or planning to join the private sector… With this great announcement, we can see that the number of nationals exploring and joining the private sector will increase drastically in the upcoming few months,” she said.
“The plan, which aims to strengthen the Emirati presence within private companies, will offer great opportunities for citizens which will enable them to gain international experience locally and work within different environments that will support them in gaining the skills and confidence required to excel, grow and finally be able to give back to their country and the economy.”
Diversifying UAE’s economy
As part of measures to boost the private sector as it diversifies its economy away from hydrocarbon revenues, the Gulf state said it will spend $6.53 billion (24 billion dirhams) to get citizens into 75,000 private sector jobs over five years.
Incentives will include salary top-ups, training grants, pension subsidies and child allowances for Emiratis working in the private sector.
Kharmeh described the plan as “one of the most important performance indicators for the UAE’s vision in 2021”, adding: “We already see great focus from the Government on training and qualifying citizens in several fields in addition to issuing provisions and rules that regulate business and tasks and offering incentives to increase the number of highly skilled and qualified Emiratis in the workforce, especially in the private sector.”
Oil-rich Gulf countries like the UAE have traditionally relied on expatriates for skilled and cheap labor, while citizens largely worked in government jobs.
But since the 2014-2015 oil price shock they have increasingly encouraged their citizens to work in the private sector rather than be on the state’s payroll.
The target for 10 percent of private sector workers to be Emiratis will start with a two percent target in the first year.
“The use of expatriate expertise and workforces has supported the rapid growth of now-international hubs such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but the number of expats in the workforce vastly outnumbers Emiratis across the country,” said Kharmeh. “As such, nationalization is a key activity that all businesses in the UAE need to dive into.”
The government also said it wanted 10,000 Emiratis to be healthcare workers in five years’ time. The UAE has historically sourced most of its healthcare staff from countries such as the Philippines and India.
Other provisions included granting Emiratis in government jobs a leave of absence and 50 percent of their salary for 6-12 months to start their own businesses.
The initiatives are part of 50 new economic projects the UAE is announcing this month to boost its competitiveness.
The regional business and tourism hub has launched measures over the past year to attract investment and foreign expatriates to help the economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.