Consultancy boss assesses 20 years of Emiratisation
Emiratisation as a policy has now been in place for almost two decades. Having first acknowledged the need for more Emiratis in the labour market as early as the 1980s, the UAE government introduced two significant institutions in the late 1990s.
In 1997 it established the Committee for Human Resources Development in the banks sector, which set a 50 per cent Emiratisation target rate by 2007. Two years later, in 1999, the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority was set up by presidential decree to support the implementation of Emiratisation.
But how successful has it been so far? And will it ever reach a point where it is completed? AbdulMuttalib Al Hashimi, the managing director of Next Level Consultancy, a management company that specialises in Emiratisation, discusses the topic.
How is Emiratisation going so far? Has it been successful?
There is no one answer. There are different ways of looking at it. We’re seeing Emiratisation evolve in terms of companies, employers’ understanding of it.
How has it evolved?
Before it was all about how can we get the numbers in, but now it’s more about how to engage them. Those are the questions companies ask themselves. The other thing is the set of challenges have changed now.
In what way?
You have traditional challenges – you have unemployment among Emiratis and the unemployment rate is not improving because you have at least 11,000 graduates every year. But at the same time, there are other sets of challenges – for example, women in employment. They comprise the highest percentage of graduates from higher education and they are the majority of job seekers, however unemployment is higher among women. How can we address that? But in some areas, yes, it is becoming successful.
For example, we now have more Emiratis who are more prepared to work in the private sector. I am encouraged because there are a number of private sector organisations that are looking at Emiratisation in a more strategic way, a more creative way. They are thinking: “OK, do you know what? If we are going to bring in the numbers, if we are going to recruit them, we might as well do it in the right way”. They need to do that as a business priority. But the public sector, at the risk of being controversial, does not need to do that. They are a little bit comfortable because they know that they will retain Emiratis. They don’t have to be very creative in how they engage them. But the private sector has to find different ways to engage Emiratis.
Will there ever be a point where you can say Emiratisation is done, or will there always be work to do?
There is a reality, and then there is a possibility. The reality might make someone feel a little bit pessimistic because you have 300,000 Emiratis expected to join the workforce in the next 10 years. We have Emiratis who are unemployed – the number is still debatable. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said what we want to do is to increase nationalisation 10-fold by 2021. The target is 5 per cent by 2021. If you are pessimistic, you would point out that it has taken us more than 10 years and we are still at 0.65 per cent. How are going to achieve 5 per cent in the next seven years? If you look at it in that way, you would think we still have a long way to go. That is the reality bit.
And the possibility?
The Minister of Labour said, based on his organisation’s study of the market, you have 20,000 Emiratis in the private sector and at least 3 million jobs are available in the market for Emiratis to assume. So why haven’t more Emiratis joined the private sector? That’s the question he posed, so the possibility is if we get it right in the private sector the nationalisation question could be solved.
Which is it – do Emiratis not want to work for the private sector, or is the private sector not doing enough?
It’s a combination of both, frankly. Yes, there are Emiratis who don’t want to work in the private sector, but at the same time I work with a lot of private sector companies and the Emiratis you find who work there are interested in what they do. You tend to see that there are hurdles from the private sector itself, and a major one is perception. Both the private sector employer and the Emirati job seeker have perceptions about each other. How you address this perception problem is for both of them to try each other out. I always say try out Emiratis through internship and work placement programmes.
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