Emirati job seekers register at the Abu Dhabi Health Authority pavilion during the Thawdheef Recruitment Show in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A national project to steer Emiratis towards private sector jobs has become the top priority of the ministry of labour.

With only 22,000 Emiratis working in the private sector which currently boasts more than 4 million jobs, the tough task of Minister of Labour Saqr Gobash today is to bring thousands more UAE citizens into the sector.

The public sector may not be able to absorb the growing number of new graduates –some 350,000 jobs are needed in the next 20 years – Gobash told the media on Monday. He presented a number of ideas of which some will be turned into proposals that will go to the cabinet, "hopefully within weeks," he told Gulf News on the sidelines of Monday's meeting.

The proposals are aimed to bridge the gaps between the public and private sectors to make the latter more attractive to Emiratis. These include addressing the benefits that Emirati public workers enjoy but their private sector counterparts currently lack such as job security, the number of holidays and the two-day weekend system and higher wages.

“I propose some amendments to the Labour Law to allow for a two-day weekend for the private sector with increasing the working hours from the current 8 to 9 to compensate for the extra day off,” the minister said. He added that the disparity of wages can be addressed by subsidising the difference of the salary in a similar job in the two sectors. “Perhaps at a later stage we may need to set a minimum wage for Emiratis in the private sector,” he said, but added that that would be a last resort as the proposals are not meant to add further burdens on the private sector. “We need to work together and we hope the private sector will do its part in this national project,” he stressed. “It is a shared responsibility.”