In any economy the private sector is where you find the vast majority of jobs. Therefore it is a real worry that the UAE’s private sector has only managed to attract less than 10 per cent of the 225,000 Emiratis currently in the UAE’s workforce. It is shocking that only 22,000 Emiratis are in the private sector, and that low figure would be a lot lower if it excluded private sector companies with substantial government shareholdings.
The government and government-owned companies cannot continue to absorb the huge number of young Emiratis entering the job market.
Today, 65 per cent of Emiratis are under 25 years of age. So the current lackadaisical systems of recruitment are going to fail.
If employers in a particular sector are currently looking at a few tens or maybe hundreds of Emiratis, in a few years they will be looking at thousands every year.
It is time for the private sector employers to move rapidly to improve their skills at recruiting and employing Emiratis. The ideas that Saqr Gobash Saeed Gobash, Minister of Labour, put forward show that the government recognises how important the private sector is as an employer.
The government will be looking to the private sector to more recruit UAE nationals, and much of what the minister outlined was about seeking to level the playing field between private and public sector, by equalising salaries for similar jobs, and making sure that other benefits — like holiday entitlements — are the same in both sectors. This is important and should go ahead.
It is essential that young Emiratis working in the private sector should not feel hard done by.
But, at the same time, private sector employers cannot continue to dodge hiring Emiratis. Those who move quickly and develop proper systems for graduate recruitment will get the best of a bright bunch who are a credit to any workforce. Those who try and avoid the issue will find that they will be forced to work with much less attractive employees.