Emiratis now account for about a third of the staff at many of the largest government-linked firms in Abu Dhabi as companies strive to raise the profile of citizens in the workforce.
Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) more than tripled its number of Emirati employees over 2011 and 2012. The developer says it is on course to beat its target of raising the percentage of locals it employs to 40 per cent by 2015.
Mubadala Development aims to ensure that more than half of its staff at its head office are nationals by the end of the year.
Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) have Emiratisation rates of 35 per cent and 31.6 per cent, respectively. A total of 22.4 per cent of Etihad Airways's core staff are Emiratis, while National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) has an Emiratisation level of 35.3 per cent.
Raising the skill levels of nationals and engaging them in the drive to move the Abu Dhabi economy away from a reliance on oil have long been integral parts of the emirate's development goals, as mapped out by the 2030 vision.
But many companies are redoubling their efforts to find local candidates as the Government drums up support for its initiative designating 2013 the year of Emiratisation.Companies are also being encouraged to consider Emirati jobseekers put forward by the Tawteen Council, the body responsible for reducing unemployment among locals.
"Abu Dhabi companies are really working hard to fill positions with Emiratis," said Hamza Zaouali, the managing director of Iris Executives, a job search company working with several Abu Dhabi government-linked companies.
"Last year there may be a job open to Emiratis for one month and if that was not filled the search would be widened to expatriates. Now, companies are increasingly keeping those positions only for Emiratis."
Some government-linked companies are looking to fill several hundred positions with Emiratis this year.
Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, plans to recruit more than 500 UAE nationals this year, an official with the company said in January. Emirates Aluminium, a joint venture between Mubadala and Dubai Aluminium, said the same month it was seeking Emiratis to fill 318 positions this year, 154 per cent more than last year.
NBAD said it planned to hire 150 nationals this year.
"ADPC's stated target for 2013 is to further increase the percentage of UAE nationals in the company to 40 per cent, with 44 positions specifically earmarked for the 'developee programme,' " said a spokesman for the ports operator. "The company has also indicated that, in line with its continued growth, there will also be opportunities for, and recruitment of, experienced Emiratis, in management-level positions."
TDIC has experienced the biggest increase in its national workforce in the last two years. Its Emiratisation level rose from 9 per cent in 2011 to 32 per cent at the end of last year.
"Our plan has been to reach an Emiratisation level of 40 per cent by 2015," said Sultan Al Mahmoud, the executive director of strategic performance at TDIC. "However, given where we are today in regards to that process, we strongly believe that we will exceed our set target."
He said more than 80 per cent of the company's senior management was Emirati.
Across some companies, the rise in Emiratisation levels is partly explained by cuts to expatriate workforce numbers during the global financial crisis. For others, it reflects nationals filling new positions.
“Some Abu Dhabi companies had to lay off a substantial amount of expatriate workforce during the global financial crisis and when the time was right reorganised and used this opportunity to Emiratise some positions that were previously held by expatriates,” said Mr Zaouali.
The Government is also keen to encourage more Emiratis to move into the private sector to ease the burden for employment from the public sector.
The private sector accounted for the highest percentage of demand for labour in the first quarter of last year, according to data released yesterday by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.