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Job advert discrimination not illegal in UAE

Listings advertising job openings in the UAE routinely and openly discriminate based on nationality - a practice that seems archaic and absurd to most.

DUBAI // Wanted: qualified receptionist for a social media company. Only attractive women from the Philippines, Russia or Arab countries need apply.

Such job adverts are common - but many residents and recruiters have expressed outrage at what they deem to be discrimination.

The online advert calling for a good-looking female employee is one of half a dozen on the Dubizzle classified website.

A human-resources manager who posted a listing seeking an attractive Russian said the specification was necessary to meet the needs of the role.

"Where is the problem in saying that I want people of those nationalities when I feel those nationalities suit the position I need to fill?" he asked.

"The salary I have available for the position might not suit the expectations of every nationality. I didn't want to leave it too open and waste people's time.

"I have seen many adverts looking for people only from Kerala.

"It's not even a nationality, but they want people from that specific region. I am very open-minded by comparison."

The Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment about racially biased wanted ads.

But a former UAE labour minister, Dr Ali Al Kaabi, said there were no regulations over setting such stipulations.

"It's an open market. A company can hire who they want," he said. "If you want to hire someone for a female hair salon, then you would hire only a woman.

"If you want a model, you would select only a pretty woman to do the modelling. This is the case all over the world, not just in the United Arab Emirates."

But not all recruitment agents agree.

One British recruiter, who declined to be named, said it was wrong to make such racial and gender stipulations so openly.

"It's just not appropriate," he said. "There are more politically correct ways of putting what you want on an advert, without specifically saying that it has to be a person of a particular nationality or gender.

"It's commonplace out here, because there are no rules against it, so people can get away with whatever they want."

Toby Simpson, director of the Gulf Recruitment Group, said there were strict rules in Britain governing what job adverts could say. Even using words such as "experienced" or "dynamic" was illegal because it implied a preference for a particular age group.

"In the UK, there's a whole gamut of illegal words you can't use, which go way too far," he said.   "So coming from that culture, it's completely shocking when you get here for the first time and see adverts that say 'no Egyptians'.

"There are practical reasons for what you might term as discrimination, but it needs to be done within sensible, ethical boundaries.

"There were quotas for certain nationalities across the GCC, and an employer might be looking to increase its diversification.

"Sometimes it might come down to language abilities. Other times, people feel more comfortable working with people from their own culture."

A spokesman for Dubizzle said the company "takes a firm stance on any activity on the site that is deemed to be racist".

"We allow individuals to express cultural preference but we do not allow individuals to exclude a particular group based on race, religion, creed, nationality or gender," he said. "So an ad stating that a particular race or culture cannot apply directly violates our terms of use and is deleted as soon as our customer service team finds it or is notified of it."

While making overt stipulations on the basis of nationality or gender is not illegal in the Emirates, some experts say it is becoming less common.

"We're certainly seeing it diminishing," said Rabea Ataya, chief executive of Bayt.com, one of the largest jobs sites in the country. As the jobs market becomes more open and more international, we'll certainly see less of it in the future.

"Companies are coming to realise that if you're not an equal-opportunities employer and you're restricting yourself to a particular nationality, age group or gender, you might not be getting the best employee out there."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

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