DUBAI // Young Emirati men and other Gulf nationals looking for jobs are discovering that they are often the victims of stereotyping by employers, new research suggests.
A three-year study has found that Gulf nationals were frequently labelled as "lazy locals" by prospective employers. Gulf women, however, are viewed as more efficient and competent than men.
"This 'lazy local' stereotype includes lack of efficiency and competence at work," said Dr May al Dabbagh, one of the study's researchers who is a professor at the Dubai School of Government (DSG).
"We have found that young men and women are experiencing this in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE," she said. But the stereotype applies more to men than to women, who were generally viewed as punctual and efficient, she added.
The research findings, based on studies of 500 Emiratis and 500 Saudi nationals, were presented last week at a lecture at the DSG.
The three studies that comprise the project suggest that negative perceptions are affecting job seekers, even as Emiratisation and nationalisation gain speed.
"We do have empirical data showing that there is an internalisation of negative stereotypes where a UAE national is seen as not fulfilling the standards of an ideal employee," said Dr al Dabbagh, who is the founder and director of the Gender and Public Policy Program at DSG.
"This is very concerning because it is likely to have a negative impact on their self-esteem, and can possibly turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy in the future," she said.
Dr al Dabbagh also said that nationalisation policies, if not implemented well, will have a negative impact on Gulf nationals. It is important, she said, to understand the psychological implications of these policies.
Job quotas and related requirements for the employment of nationals can create a perception that they are entitled to jobs, and so do not need to work hard. Some Emiratis say the notion that they are not industrious has hurt their job prospects.
"I would be happy to work in the private sector, especially seeing as how there are very few jobs out there at the moment," said Amira Mohammad, a 20-year-old Emirati student at Zayed University.
"I do not have a problem working long hours and I believe the idea that young Emiratis would not put in extra hours negatively affects us, because it means we miss out on opportunities."
Other Emiratis expressed mixed feelings about the stereotypes.
"To be honest, I am split on this issue because I know that some of my friends would not mind working long hours, but I personally would not want to be in a tiresome job," said Samiha Mohammad, an 18-year-old Emirati secondary student. "Some jobs in the private sector are not suited to Emiratis."
The study noted that the new generation of Emirati and Saudi university students are "bicultural", identifying with both local and global cultures.
* With additional reporting by Bana Qabbani