Creating jobs for Emiratis has long been a priority for the UAE's governments, but it has become more urgent in recent years as a growing number of graduates begin to look for jobs.
About 73 per cent of Emiratis in Abu Dhabi are below the age of 30 and a large number are at or near the point of graduation from secondary school and university, according to estimates from the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi.
With more Emiratis looking for work, governments are hastily trying to prepare more of them for private-sector jobs because the public sector is not big enough to absorb them all. But authorities have met numerous obstacles, chief among them the fact that government jobs continue to be better-paying.
Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, last month said another issue was that Emiratis were not being given all the skills they needed to take the jobs being created in the private sector.
"On one hand, most job creation has been concentrated in low-skill, labour-intensive sectors that are unattractive to national job seekers and sustained by open admission of foreign workers at wages determined by sending countries' conditions," he said. "On the other hand, even attractive employment opportunities in the private sector require skills our educational and skills development systems have been slow to develop given the traditional orientation towards public-sector needs."
Further complicating Emiratisation efforts, some Emiratis feel the private sector is discriminatory.
"Many Emiratis believe that private-sector employers do not treat nationals very well in comparison with other nationalities," said Manar Al Hinai, an Emirati fashion designer and writer.
The federal and emirate-level governments have been helping develop the private sector through huge investments in industry and partnerships with foreign companies to start new businesses in the UAE. Many of these projects are also aimed at diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbons.