The UAE Government has put forward the most compelling set of reasons for Nationals to consider jobs in the private sector. But businesses too need to do their part to make the transition happen. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: 75,000 in 5 – that’s the number CEOs and HR directors will have on their minds. It’s the target the UAE Government has set for country’s private sector when it comes to hiring UAE nationals – and for many business owners, the process starts right now.

Because the creation of these number of jobs cannot come by natural evolution alone – some of the changes will have to be forced. And at speed.

That would mean rather than wait for the hiring to start after a UAE national graduates, the process of creating the talent to meet future requirements has to start earlier. If that means tying up directly with the colleges and other academic institutions, then, so be it.

"Our strategy will look at actively partnering with universities for internship and Emirati graduate programmes,” said Dr. Azad Moopen, Chairman and Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare. “These roles can span across functions like nursing, clinicians, customer service, among others. Currently, we have 20 Emiratis employed with the organisation, of whom 12 were hired this year as part of the Emiratization programme.”

Dr. Azad Moopen of Aster DM Healthcare
Dr. Azad Moopen of Aster DM Healthcare: "We plan to work closely with the government to provide career paths for Emiratis in both clinical and non-clinical streams." Image Credit: Supplied

Now, a career in healthcare – and that too in the private sector – would be a top choice for the current generation of Emiratis leaving school and giving thought to a career. COVID-19 and the UAE’s high visibility approach in tackling the pandemic will definitely shape their thoughts.

Technology has and will also be a top pick career-wise, as will jobs in finance. But what about take up rates in other sectors? This is where the UAE Government made a most decisive intervention.

"Prospective employers would do well to devise intern and paid training schemes that hone the skills of National applicants and, ultimately, offer both regional and international opportunities," said Jonathan Davidson at the DIFC based law firm Davidson & Co. "Essential in this is that recruits be made to feel that their employers are keen to develop and retain them over the course of a well-defined career trajectory.

"Doing so, both parties in the equation will reap the maximum in their combined efforts. Employees will gain unparalleled experience and enhanced abilities, the UAE will continue to pique the interest of global investors, and, generally, everyone will benefit in an ever expanding and mutually edifying relationship."

The worldly, enterprising and tech-savvy under-30’s of the Emirates are increasingly looking to the private sector as the destination of choice. This is evident in the stats alone - 66% of the country’s students are seeking a career outside the public arena, which represents an inversion of the trend that has prevailed in the past

- Jonathan Davidson of DIFC-based law firm Davidson & Co.
A blueprint for UAE's private sector on National recruitment
"By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of all employees. These are people who have only ever known life in a digital world. How will they respond to the decades-old processes and solutions that many of them will be expected to deploy when they reach executive and C-suite levels?

"The rate and extent of transformation of UAE Nationals working in private sector clearly has implications for our approach to talent management. At a minimum, there needs to be a refresh. For organisations, nothing short of a disrupted talent management solution might be in order.

"In the last two decades, we have seen a dramatic shift in the employment of UAE Nationals in the private sector from predominantly being in government, semi-government and financial services sector.

"As part of the incentive to strengthen private sector's employment of UAE Nationals, we have seen the deployment of different initiatives - from salary support schemes to merit programmes for specialized talent like engineers, nursing, coding, etc., In addition, higher pension subsidy for Nationals earning less than Dh20,000/month is also going to make it more attractive to work in private sector.

"Going forward, job creation and opportunities are in the private sector - and young graduates have the desired skills to start a career in private sector."

- Vijay Gandhi, regional head at the recruitment consultancy Korn Ferry.

Incentives will make the difference

To change perceptions and reduce wage gaps that exist between public and private sector jobs, the Government will be offering wage subsidies to ease UAE Nationals’ entry into – and remaining a part of – the private sector. This will mean a fixed amount being given to the candidate each month over and above what his or her employer pays out as salary.

“The biggest difference between past Emiratisation efforts and the latest is on the incentivizing,” said Sameer Lakhani, Managing Director at Global Capital Partners, a real estate consultancy. “Earlier, for banking and insurance, employers had to take in a certain number of UAE Nationals each year and be in line with government mandates. But all the pay and incentives had to be borne by the employer.

“This one move – of supporting UAE nationals through the first few years in their jobs – will now change that equation.”

UAE Jobs: Dubai is hiring again
Jobs are back on the national agenda, and businesses have been increasing their hires in recent months. Now, they have a new target - help the country create 75,000 jobs in the private sector. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Learning from experience

The Government has also provided flexibility to the private sector in terms of timeline to meet these targets. Clearly, experiences from the Emiratisation drive in the banking and insurance sectors have been taken on board. Starting from the mid-1990s, The banking industry was given the mandate to raise their percentage of UAE Nationals in the workforce by up to 4 per cent each year. Insurance companies too were brought under the ambit, and by available evidence, these moves have been successful, by and large.

This one move – of supporting UAE nationals through the first few years in their jobs – will now change the equation

- Sameer Lakhani of Global Capital Partners

Already making the move

Mishal AlMarzouqi, an entrepreneur with interests straddling a utility business and in commerce, reckons that UAE Nationals are already making the transition to the private sector – and that the latest Government push will only speed the process along. “Many are feeling the benefits in the private sector are better than what they get in public,” he said. “Sure, the working hours may be longer in private – but at the end of the day, it’s all learning experience.

“UAE Nationals will realise private sector roles will help them even more down the line. For me, I always preferred working in the private sector – because that experience is more important.”

Stock - Mishal AlMarzouqi
Mishal AlMarzouqi, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Signature Yashmagh, "In today's market, young UAE Nationals will consider jobs in the public or private sectors to begin with than launch their own business." Image Credit: Supplied

Own business vs. being employed

AlMarzouqi does not buy the argument that for many young UAE Nationals, if a job does not materialise in the public sector, they would gravitate to launching their own business. He clearly does not believe in that stereotyping.

“You cannot make everyone into an entrepreneur,” he added. “Not in the current market situation. Having a trade license is simple – but all other activities could be challenging. Better to work seven hours a day and get the salary.”

The message - Start with the small steps.

We have seen the deployment of different initiatives - from salary support schemes to merit programmes for specialized talent like engineers, nursing, coding, etc.

- Vijay Gandhi of Korn Ferry