ABU DHABI // One in five UAE nationals of working age were unemployed last year, an increase of 13 per cent on the year before.
The figure – 20.8 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics – prompted a series of questions at yesterday’s meeting of the Federal National Council, when the Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash, was asked about the ministry’s role in encouraging Emiratis to find work in the private sector.
“The problem we face is not that there are no jobs,” the minister said. “There are jobs, but Emiratis don’t accept these jobs. This is the challenge we face.”
The minister said four million people worked in the private sector, 20,000 of them Emiratis.
He said 300,000 private-sector jobs required a secondary school qualification or higher, and were therefore suitable for UAE nationals.
But Emiratis still avoided the private sector for reasons such as low salaries, lack of job security and long working hours.
Mr Ghobash said the difference in annual leave entitlement between the two sectors could be up to 57 days.
“When they see other locals with the same academic qualification in the public sector earning more, then why should they get less?
“These are some of the main challenges for Emiratisation.”
Mr Ghobash said there were more unemployed nationals in Fujairah, Khor Fakkan and Ras Al Khaimah because of a lack of job opportunities in these areas.
“And 38 per cent of these are women,” he said. “We need to keep in mind geographic and gender ties, which prevent the movement of women to other places that have jobs.”
Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman), who raised the issue, said economically the private sector was improving, but that was not reflected in the number of Emiratis being hired.
The minister insisted the numbers were “not worrying” as he expected the “real number” of those looking for work to be far lower. He said he hoped numbers would change by next year.
“We hope that 2013 will be the year of Emiratisation, and we find a solution to this,” he said. “We have not reached worrying figures yet, but it doesn’t mean that it is not important. Looking at numbers that come from the workplace next year is important.”
He pointed to initiatives by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, such as Absher, which aims to create thousands of new posts in ministries, airlines, oil companies and more than 20 other entities, which will boost Emiratisation.
“This in itself means that the file of Emiratisation has become one of the most important files in the country,” he said. “Therefore we are sure and confident that Emiratisation in the next year will be successful at the ministry.”
The minister said a new company classification system was introduced last year to encourage companies to employ Emiratis.
He said the notion that Emiratis were not up to the job and incapable of working in the private sector was simply not true.
“They say graduates are not good to work, my response is simple: they are able to work anywhere they get an opportunity, if it was not for the salary and insurance, holidays, and working hours. When this is resolved, then they would be able to.”
Mr Al Nuaimi did not make any recommendations to the ministry as a dedicated temporary committee on the council was studying the issue in depth and would discuss all findings with the minister at a later date.