ABU DHABI //Published unemployment rates mask higher jobless levels among young Emiratis - largely because families are reluctant for their daughters to commute long distances - according to experts.
In January, the Federal National Council announced the unemployment rate among Emiratis was nearly 13 per cent.
However, Dr Naji al Mahdi, the head of the national institute for vocational education, claims that 31.2 per cent of Emiratis aged 15-19 are unemployed.
Most are women, he said, in remote parts of the country.
"Boys can commute and have opportunities like the police and army, but women have mobility problems," he said.
"They cannot commute or stay away from home so even when there are opportunities to work, they can't reach them."
The knock-on effects of the problem are felt far beyond the workplace, according to one sociologist, Dr Ahmed Alomosh, a lecturer at the University of Sharjah, who conducted a study in 2008 on the implications of stigmas attached to vocational education.
Over one year, he interviewed 4,800 unemployed Emiratis from around the country; 76 per cent of the participants were women and 72 per cent were between the ages of 18 and 29.
He said widespread youth unemployment would in time lead to social problems including crime and delinquency."A significant portion of youths have remained idle with little contribution to the economic development of their countries," he noted.
In interviews, several young women said they had tried to find work but struggled. Ameera Qasim, a 26-year-old from Al Ain, said it was almost impossible to find work outside the UAE's biggest cities.
"Most companies are in Abu Dhabi or Dubai," she said. "Even if they have a branch in Al Ain, they will say they want you to work in the main branch."
But many parents remain reluctant to let their daughters work far from home. As a result, Miss Qasim has been unemployed for a year.
Some Emirati girls have resorted to low-paying jobs just to gain experience, and in some cases out of sheer boredom.
"My friend works in a private company here, for something like Dh3,000 a month," said Miss Qasim,adding that her friend works from 7am to 5pm.
"Private companies don't help us. There should be help for women."
The lack of jobs, she said, was forcing some families to relax their attitudes. "Some people have to work, they need to," she said.