A career fair and exhibition at the Abu Dhabi National Education Centre. As a replacement for the quota regime, a new national policy — and that involves private sector decision-makers — needs to be framed. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The push towards Emiratisation targets should be a “generational” goal rather than anything rushed through over a shorter term. In the interim, a rethink can also be considered on the quota regime set for key industries in the private sector.

“The balance between public and private sectors of having an Emirati population on a larger scale will happen over a realistic period,” said Saqr Mohammad, a UAE national who recently took over as Principal for Talent Business at Mercer’s Middle East office. “If we just focus on the banking sector by itself, we can easily identify a number of challenges such as the “talent war”, where everyone is demanding the right talent that would be considered a valuable asset.

“This talent war will contribute to various individual behaviours, which will always motivate them to move from one position to another, from one department to another, and from one bank to another within a very short time period.

“It will always be challenging to meet the given quota and retain people due to high demand and less supply.

“As a result, the quota regime solely will be ineffective and will never resolve the Emiratization dilemma.”

As a replacement for the quota regime, a new national policy — and that involves private sector decision-makers — needs to be framed and given a chance to succeed by having a longer time frame. “In my opinion, the rethink could be to focus on the manpower planning needs rather than a quota system,” said Mohammad.

But wouldn’t the better pay and perks — not to mention job security — always lead to a preference for a role in the public sector? More so, at times of stress for the wider economy?

“Economic uncertainty does have an effect … (But) this could be in both sectors,” said Mohammad. “And no one can claim that their job is secured 100 per cent no matter what.

“If we glance at the public sector employment law, we could easily identify and recognise the uncertainty the individual could experience throughout the employment stages — regardless of economic uncertainty or not.

“Such feeling could also happen at any stage of change the organisation is facing such as a change in its mandate/decree, change in the board members, change in the organisation structure, change in technology and policies, and other factors as well.

“Within the UAE, in my opinion, economic uncertainty is not that critical. When searching for employment, individual’s preferences matter the most and shape their decisions.”

The challenges to private sector organisations also comes in another form — more young UAE nationals are seduced by the concept of launching their own business. In this context, recent “innovation” initiatives at the federal level and from within Dubai could spur on the process.

“Entrepreneurship has no time frame to consider, nor is a fashion that is going to vanish over a period of time,” said Mohammad. “It might be true that there was no direct and exclusive focus on such important economic matter in the past. However, such a trend will continue until it reaches its maturity level.

“It will continue regardless of the external economic situation and its impact on other parts of the world. And not to forget, the massive learning experience the UAE achieved over the past economic downturn makes it much harder to repeat the effect in future.

“If we just take a look at the UAE 2021 Vision and the National Agenda, we can easily notice how aggressively UAE is paying attention to be among the Top 10 countries in promoting entrepreneurship.”


A five-point plan to balance UAE national representation in public-private sectors

HR policies need to be enhanced to a greater extent where it can easily eliminate the gap, according to Saqr Mohammad at Mercer. The more the prevailing gaps between the two sectors, the more complex and challenging it is to achieve the balance in the job marketplace.

Improve pension legislation: Pension policies needs to be reviewed and dramatic changes to achieve equilibrium between the two sectors will attract and retain UAE nationals within the private sector. And to make it even more attractive, provide additional incentives that are much higher when compared to the public sector. For example, higher pay benefits for nationals or lower the retirement age to 50 years instead of 60.

Introduce scholarship schemes: It might be useful to directly link the scholarship provided by Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and other universities with the private sector’s employment needs. UAE nationals can be hired by the private sector and given the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree that is supported by the concerned parties. Such a trend will ensure effective employment opportunities within the private sector and a realistic commitment.

Introduce summer work placement schemes: Start early with a private sector role during the secondary education and bachelor programmes. The concerned government authorities — Ministry of Labour or Tanmia — can support the initiative.

Introduce a part-time employment contract: The Ministry of Labour could think of introducing such a policy. Such an initiative will have an impact in a number of ways such as demographics and infrastructure. It will also stimulate UAE nationals’ interest to contribute to the private sector in a much more meaningful way, or even encourage them to consider full-time employment.