DUBAI // The head of a federal Emiratisation programme wants the Government to "stop recruiting nationals for the public sector" for at least three years.
Essa Al Mulla, the executive director of the Emirates National Development Programme (ENDP), made his comments today at the 8th Emiratisation Congress.
The ENDP was set up in 2005 to help UAE nationals find jobs in the private sector.
Most Emirati workers continue to work in the government sector, which provides higher salaries, more prestige and fewer working hours than the private sector, Mr Al Mulla said.
The private sector, he said, has "failed to understand the needs of the GCC community".
"The need for jobs is there. But we need to understand what motivates them to take the jobs and stay in them."
A "serious debate with the Government is needed", he said. "I'm calling for a revolution to the education system, because the reality is we don't have the right calibre yet," he said.
His vision, he said, is a 10-year plan in which Emiratis work in the private sector for the first five years, then bring what they have learnt to government work.
Emiratisation requirements for private employers can have drawbacks, said Maryam Alzaabi, 29, a business development manager at the training centre of the automation technology company ABB.
Mrs Alzaabi, who has a master's degree, said she was "disappointed" that the private sector lacked an interest in developing her fellow Emiratis.
She said her first employer did not look at her qualifications upon giving her a job. "They were only interested in hiring me because I am an Emirati. They need to trust our skills and show appreciation for the education we have invested in."
She said her husband was hired only because "he was wearing the kandura".
"How do companies expect us to work for them, if they don't give us the opportunities to prove ourselves?" she said.
Mrs Alzaabi said companies must stop generalising Emiratis as "lazy". "Things have changed ... our mentality has changed, and we are willing to work," she said.
At the same time, Mr Al Mulla said there has been a heartening increase in the number of Emiratis willing to work in the retail sector.
The retail industry makes up 30 per cent of the country's GDP, and is one of the few sectors that employs people who do not have a university education, officials said at yesterday's congress.
Mr Al Mulla said Emiratis have in the past been reluctant to accept jobs stocking shelves, working the cash machine, or helping shoppers because it is "not deemed prestigious enough by their families and peers".
For these and other reasons, including low entry pay and long hours, he said, retail has been "not the sector they want to join".
However, he said, Emiratis "are ready now", and retail has become the second-highest sector for Emirati recruitment at 17 per cent - an all-time high.
The greatest concentration of Emiratis in the private sector continues to be in banking, at about 33 per cent.
A "change in mindset from both sides" is the only way forward, said Zack Abdi, the managing director of Arm International Group, an investment consultancy. "This is a socio-economic problem; we do not have the right people in the right jobs, and it affects companies and their profits."
Robert Hannah, of Morgan International, a company that specialises in professional training, said he had seen an increasing interest from Emiratis. This is due to an awareness that higher education is "a must" to be able to compete with the "crème de la crème of expats".
Khaled El Miniawi, head of talent management at Emirates NBD, said development programmes should move from a classroom focus to a job focus. "You have to develop them in the battlefield - that's the real workplace," he said.