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Finding jobs for UAE nationals

The UAE creates 800,000 new jobs every year, yet there are 36,000 UAE nationals seeking jobs with more than 15,000 fresh university graduates entering the work force every year.

  • Labour ministry's strategy of emiratising selective professions in the country is bearing fruit. Image Credit:Gulf News
  • The UAE Cabinet has issued Emiratisation quotas for jobs in Banking, Insurance and Trade sectors in the privaImage Credit:Gulf News
  • Companies which have over 100 employees will have to emiratise their Public Relations Officer position. Image Credit:Gulf News
  • All human resources and personnel managerial positions are to be emiratised in 18 months, as per a ministerialImage Credit:Gulf News
  • All secretarial positions are to required to be emiratised with the expiry of the employees' labour card oImage Credit:Gulf News
  • Labour Minister Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi explaining the ever-evolving emiratisation process. AccordinImage Credit:Gulf News archive
Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE creates 800,000 new jobs every year, yet there are 36,000 UAE nationals seeking jobs with more than 15,000 fresh university graduates entering the work force every year.

The vast majority of those benefiting from the creation of the new jobs are expatriates, leaving a significant number of qualified and skilled UAE nationals without jobs.

Such is the severity of the situation that the World Bank and IMF have both pointed to unemployment as a major hindrance to development in the Arab world, including the UAE.

However, they have also warned regional governments not to implement nationalisation policies that could prove to be counterproductive, as has the implementation of quotas in their view, which until recently was the prime emiratisation tool of the UAE.

In what could be seen as a more credible self-criticism, the UAE's National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority, Tanmia, issued a report analysing nationalisation policies of GCC governments, and found the quota system to have more negative effects than positive.

Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, UAE Minister of Labour, recently declared the quota system to be ineffective, saying the ministry's focus would now turn to the emiratisation of professions.

New targets

In December 2005 the ministry of labour issued a ministerial decision requiring the emiratisation of public relations officers (PRO), signalling a shift from the previous emiratisation policy of meeting assigned quotas.

Earlier this year, the minister said that the emiratisation of other professions would only be enforced if that of the PROs proves to be a success. According to Dr Al Ka'abi, 1,700 of the 3,000 PRO positions in the UAE have been emiratised to date, which he has reportedly called a success.

In June, two ministerial decisions were issued by the ministry of labour requiring the emiratisation of secretarial positions as well as managerial positions in human resources departments.

Dr Mouawiya Al Awad, acting director of the Centre for Labour Market Research and Information (CLMRI) at the National Human Resources Development and Employment Authority, Tanmia, points to statistics to justify the ministry's new policy.

Almost half of the unemployed UAE nationals, he says, are qualified at the secondary school level. That, he argues, makes them fit for certain positions but not others.

Like PRO positions, says Dr Al Awad, secretarial positions will also target secondary school graduates.

"Since secretarial positions require a minimum secondary school qualification, the emiratisation of such jobs will significantly help curtail unemployment among nationals", he said.

The emiratisation of human resources managers comes from a strong belief in the ministry that such a move will pave the way for further emiratisation in the private sector.

According to the minister, the emiratisation of human resources managers will create a "solid base" for the integration of UAE nationals into the job market.


Pension: Employer pays 12.5 per cent of full salary (employee pays 5 per cent, government pays 2.5 per cent)

Minimum wages for UAE nationals

  • Below secondary: Dh3,000
  • Secondary: Dh4,000
  • Post secondary: Dh5,000


  • Work permit application - Dh210
  • Work permits approval - Dh1,000-3,000
  • Medical check up - Dh500
  • To stamp residence visa - Dh310

Medical check up and residence visa stamps are not the responsibility of the employer if the employee is a woman on her father or husband's visa.

Total: Dh1,220 - 4,020
(Does not include optional costs of travel and food if hiring from abroad.)

Additional costs

Labour card renewal: Dh500 - 2,500 every 3 years

Gratuity based on seniority and salary

The Quota System

-Cabinet decisions were issued setting Emiratisation quotas for three parts of the private sector:

  • Banking (in 1998): 4% annually
  • Insurance (in 2001): 5% annually
  • Trade (in 2004): 2% annually

- One national with special needs equates 2 nationals without special needs.

Public Relations Officers (PRO)

  • A ministerial decision issued in December 2005 stipulated that companies which have over 100 employees will have to emiratise their public relations officer position. The PRO, also known as the government relations officer, liaises between the firm and government bodies.

Human Resources Policy

  • Rulings are effective upon being issued, but are subject to change upon subsequent statements issued by senior officials.
  • All human resources and personnel managerial positions to be emiratised in 18 months - Ministerial Decision 442 / June 24, 2006
  • Companies that have difficulty in employing UAE nationals in human resources managerial positions within the required 18 month period have been given an alternate option to emiratise in two 18-month phases:

1) Month 1-18: emiratise 50 per cent of all human resources positions in the company

2) Month 19-36: emiratise the required human resources managerial positions.

-- Administrative decision no 24 for 2006/ August 2, 2006


  • All managerial positions in the field of human resources, including executive, administrative, financial, professional or clerical.


Companies with less than 100 employees.


Awtad: A new programme to train and develop UAE nationals in the human resources field, which is sponsored by Tanmia, the Abu Dhabi Council for Emiratisation and "other agencies, programmes and departments concerned with the development and employment of national human resources".



  • All secretarial positions are required to be emiratised with the expiry of the employees' labour card or their contract, whichever comes first.
  • No work permits will be issued or renewed for expatriate secretaries - Ministerial Decision 443 / June 24, 2006


The ruling applies to secretaries and executive secretaries. Secretaries: assistant administrators, assistant executive secretaries and medical and legal secretaries

Executive secretaries: personal assistants to CEOs, personal assistants to chairmen of the board of directors.


Companies with 50 employees or less.

Possible exemptions

Employers who train nationals as secretaries within one year of committing to it can renew their current expatriate secretaries' labour cards.

Companies will be exempted from the decision by the undersecretary depending on "the nature of their business, location, the work environment and other reasons"- Administrative Decision no 15/July 16, 2006


-- Companies which do not meet emiratisation quotas have their transactions stopped. Those not fulfilling minimum wage requirements will be considered to be in violation of quota requirements.

  • Unemployment -27,300
  • Total number of unemployed in the UAE- 36,000

Total number of job seekers registered at Tanmia

The breakup of unemployment

  • Youth (15-24): 60%
  • Female: +66%
  • Holders of secondary certificates: 48%

-- Tanmia defines jobseekers as the unemployed as well as those employed nationals that are looking for other jobs.

Labour force: 800,000

  • Jobs created yearly in the UAE: 600,000 in the private sector
  • 450,000 are blue collar workers
  • 150,000 are white collar workers

Employing a GCC national

  • GCC nationals do not require work permits or residence visas and although the ministry of labour has announced plans to integrate GCC nationals in the pension system, this has not been implemented yet.