DUBAI // One in 50 private sector workers in the UAE is Emirati.
Just 43,000 of the 2.2 million private sector jobs in the country are occupied by citizens, according to a new report from TCO Management Consulting, which talks of a "lack of integration of the Emirati workforce into the private sector".
By comparison, 495,000 Emiratis work in the government sector.
A leading academic says the problem is the private sector is riddled with negative attitudes towards Emiratisation and has become strong enough to resist government efforts to implement the policy.
As a result, Emiratisation has "utterly failed", says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain.
"There is a fundamental built-in bias against Emiratis in the private sector," said the professor. "I think that bias has to do with the very culture of the private sector that has grown in this country - and we need to change that culture."
However, the suggestion that Emiratisation has failed was rejected by a government official who spearheads efforts to place more locals in private sector jobs.
Essa Al Mulla, executive director of the Emirates Nationals Development Programme, pointed to the fact unemployment among UAE citizens in Dubai had halved since the organisation was formed in 2005.
"I'm not going to say Emiratisation failed because some sectors really did well," he said. "But the private sector has mainly neglected the issues of Emiratisation from the very early stage.
"That's what has created barriers between the Emiratis and the private sector. When the Government started applying pressure, the private sector started recruiting nationals."
HR chiefs said the private sector had stepped up its efforts to attract Emiratis.
Nasreen Khalifa, a senior talent acquisition specialist at Standard Chartered, said: "In the past few years there has been a lot of change, not just to bring Emiratis into the organisation, but to develop them and put them at more of a senior level."
Prof Abdulla said: "The country has been trying to pursue Emiratisation for the past however many years and it's just failed, utterly failed, in achieving this one important item on its agenda, which prompts the question why.
"The simple answer is that the private sector is just not ready for Emiratisation and it is strong enough to reject all government efforts and all society's pressure."
He said the government was undoubtedly correct to pursue its Emiratisation policy, and added: "The private sector has to change its attitude, and perhaps change to accommodate more Emiratis.
"I think the private sector has all these bad images: that Emiratis are lazy, Emiratis are not qualified, Emiratis are not good, Emirati graduates are not ready for serious work.
"There are high-calibre, qualified, excellent Emiratis. They are just not given the chance they deserve in the private sector."
Imad Aldeen, a resourcing administrator at the nationalisation department of Emirates NBD, said the bank was doing everything it could to attract Emiratis but was finding that most still preferred to work in the government sector.
"The private sector is doing more than enough to attract Emiratis but they are concentrating on getting jobs with the government," he said. "I don't know why. Maybe they don't want to take any responsibility, because working in the bank is 100 per cent responsibility for something in any position."
Mr Al Mulla added: "There was a reluctance to engage with the private sector among the nationals, so our job is to change the mindset, to bridge the gap and to build much stronger bridges between the private sector and the nationals."