x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Abu Dhabi faces Emiratisation challenge as nationals shy away from private-sector jobs

The number of Emiratis employed in government and semi-government positions in Abu Dhabi could swell four times by 2030 to 352,000, estimates an official from the emirate.

The Government has branded 2013 the year of Emiratisation as it strives to cut the burden on the already bloated public sector. Lauren Lancaster / The National
The Government has branded 2013 the year of Emiratisation as it strives to cut the burden on the already bloated public sector. Lauren Lancaster / The National

ABU DHABI // The number of Emiratis in government and semi-government jobs in Abu Dhabi could swell four times to 352,000 by 2030, a senior economic planner has cautioned.

Better pay and benefits in the government sector and more favourable working conditions are the factors drawing Emiratis to government jobs, said Abdul Aziz Istaitieh, head of economic policy planning at Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development.

The warning is a reminder of the challenges facing the Government as it strives to steer nationals towards careers in the private sector.

The Government has named 2013 the year of Emiratisation as it aims to cut the burden on the public sector and improve technical skills.

Only 8.7 per cent of private-sector jobs in Abu Dhabi are held by Emiratis, and 92 per cent of those are office and administrative posts, Mr Istaitieh said.

Mr Istaitieh was speaking at a seminar on education and human capital on Saturday organised by the Department of Economic Development.

Giyas Gokkent, chief economist of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, said he anticipated the current trend of nationals favouring government jobs to ease before 2030.

"The UAE is a young country and if you look at what's been achieved already in terms of capacity building I would expect policy measures will be taken to change the current trend and encourage more nationals into the private sector," he said.

Quotas require some sectors to employ a certain number of nationals. Banks are expected to have at least 15 per cent of their workforce as Emiratis, and the Cabinet passed a decree in 2005 requiring companies operating in trade and commercial activities who have more than 50 employees to maintain an annual 2 per cent Emiratisation quota.

Mr Istaitieh said Emiratisation in the trade sector stood at 1 per cent, and 6 per cent among insurance companies. About 4,000 nationals work in administrative positions, he said.

In an effort to make the private sector more attractive, the Ministry of Labour is considering reforms including an increase in private sector holidays and a minimum salary entitlement for UAE nationals.

Mr Istaitieh said there was also a gap between the needs of the labour market and the educational skills of young nationals.

There were too few science graduates, he said.

Speaking at the same seminar, Khaled El Mattrawy, an economic expert at the Department of Economic Development, said an incentive scheme was required to encourage more young Emiratis to pursue vocational training. At the moment, 80 per cent of school graduates were taking non-vocational courses, he said.

There are about 13,000 Emirati jobseekers in Abu Dhabi, according to Tawteen Council, the government agency. Most of those are women, said Mr Istaitieh. Lack of job opportunities in Al Ain and Al Gharbia and other social and religious reasons were hindering them finding positions, he said.

Recommendations from the seminar for increasing the level of nationals in targeted industries included requiring the Government to bear the cost of training new employees for the first two years, raising retirement pensions in the private sector, and making private sector companies list their level of Emirati staff.