Various stakeholders agree that the Emiratisation of the private sector is not an easy process. A wide gap has opened up between the public and private sectors, in office cultures, working hours, salaries and incentives. Fewer than 10 per cent of the 225,000 working UAE nationals have jobs in the private sector; together they account for only about 20,000 of the four million private-sector employees.
Recognising the issue, the Government is making continuous efforts to involve Emiratis in the private sector and create a structured environment for private companies to invest in skills development in the country. The Absher initiative, launched last year by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, is an important component of this strategy.
As The National reported yesterday, the Government signed agreements with 16 companies to secure almost 4,000 new jobs for Emiratis in the private sector in the second phase of Absher. Some private companies, such as the French industrial engineer Fives Group, are working on establishing partnerships to create high-tech jobs for UAE nationals.
However, partnerships between the two sectors is only one part of the solution. Working in the private sector can in some cases be more challenging, and certainly the range of jobs requires a variety of skills and knowledge. And so the UAE should also put more emphasis on educating and training Emiratis with the range of skills needed by the private sector.
Many young Emiratis opt to study business and IT more than other fields. In Dubai, for example, business studies account for 37 per cent of university degrees awarded, according to the annual report published by Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority. The federal higher education institutions should also be pushing for the diversification of university majors to better meet the demands of the private sector.
If the shortage were addressed at the very foundation of education in schools and universities, and continued through proper training and into the workplace, perhaps then we would see a narrower gap between the public and the private sectors in the UAE.
Human investment is as important as capital investment. As Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, said: "Emiratis, not oil, are the real wealth of the UAE."