Resident celebrate with friends and family at the Buhairah corniche in Sharjah. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The government has moved to improve working conditions in the private sector to attract more Emirati talent because the public sector is teetering at saturation point unable to absorb the increasing number of young jobseekers entering the market, experts said on Tuesday.

Dr Abdullah Al Suwaiji, a leading Emirati human resources expert, said the new Cabinet decision to match public-private sector holidays reflects the visionary approach of UAE leadership in caring for its human resources, both Emiratis and expatriates, and in moving towards building a strong and integrated national economy — based on competitiveness at regional and international level.

“The new drive will attract Emirati talent to the private sector, which plays a key role in the national economy and can immediately create more than 30,000 jobs for citizens,” said Dr Al Suwaiji, who is also the executive director of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Sharjah.

Dr Al Suwaiji said the UAE is laying a particular focus on the private sector’s contribution to the national economy and the National Innovation Strategy, which is based on accelerating research and development efforts to address key challenges such as water scarcity, climate change, waste recycling, renewables, food security, and others, in addition to empowering the sector to play a significant role in artificial intelligence applications.

Equal holidays for public/private sector Image Credit: Gulf News

More than 338,000 private sector companies are operating in the UAE with a combined workforce of 5.26 million, according to statistics from the Ministry of Economy.

The private sector’s contribution to the UAE’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 5 per cent to 70.5 per cent in 2018 due to the government’s growing interest in the sector, being a key driver of economic growth.

The UAE Cabinet has approved public holidays for the public sector for 2019-2020, and granted the private sector equal official holidays, a total of 14 official public holidays.

The decision aims to correct the difference between the two sectors to support the national economy in various fields, according to WAM.

It will contribute to streamlining work in both the public and private sectors to enhance the attractiveness of the private sector for Emiratis, while also making it easier for citizens and residents to plan their vacations in advance, strengthening social interaction between all segments of society. Dr Mohammad Al Assoumi, a Dubai-based economics expert, said the move will attract more talent to the private sector because at present government employees typically have more public holidays than private sector workers and for Emiratis, in many cases, salaries are higher for public sector workers when compared to their private sector colleagues.

“Reducing the discrepancy between public and private sector benefits in terms of leave and vacations will also boost domestic tourism as the new leave system will give workers of the private sector more time to travel across the emirates and enjoy family-friendly attractions,” said Dr Al Assoumi.

He added the new move would increase productivity in the private sector and thus its contribution to the national economy, because better benefits will positively affect the workers.

What people say:

Holidays are meant for people to take a break, it should be the same for everyone. Families should not be divided based on where they work and the number of days they get off during a public holiday. Unified holidays symbolise a unified community, where everybody is celebrating together as festivals have the same significance for all. This is a very good move by the government.

- Richard Simapili, British

Most private companies have to deal with government departments on a regular basis and if the government offices are closed then there is no point having the private sector working as there would be hardly any activity for many. Also, this move makes sense as there will be uniformity and a sense of fairness.

- Faheem Ahmad, Indian

This is such a great decision. I am so happy. Very often when holidays were announced, I felt disappointed when these fell on a weekend and while the public sector got extended leave on weekdays to combine with the weekends, those in private sector could not do much. Now with parity in holidays, we will have equal number of national holidays. I am really looking forward to Eid Holidays as that is the time when I get to travel to Homs, Syria to meet my wife. Now my vacation will not be so hurried.

- Mouafak Takla, 41, Syrian

Majority of the people work for private sector in the UAE, but many jobs are linked to government sector such as somebody like a PRO will not have anything to do if the government departments are closed. There are many firms which work in joint ventures with the government so when the holidays are not uniform work gets affected here as well. I really appreciate this decision as this will have a positive impact on everything.

- Shafiqur Rehman, Pakistani

I am a wholesale trader and for me increase in the number of holidays means less business. I think one or two days of holidays are enough even for Eid, more holidays are not good for business. Private sector should be free to decide the number of days they want to give holidays to their employees.

- Firdous Murtaza, Tajikistani