x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Flexible hours can lead to greater growth

The effects of a new part-time labour law will reverberate in a number of positive ways, not least of which is greater employment opportunities for many UAE residents.

Flexibility is critical in a dynamic economy. Workers need to be able to adapt; companies must be able to offer flexible environments to recruit the best talent and get the most out of their employees. As we report today, the Emirates took a long-awaited step in making its economy more flexible by allowing residents to work in part-time jobs this month. The change to the labour law went into effect this month.

More than 60 per cent of UAE residents told YouGovSiraj last year that they were interested in part-time work or a job share. If a small fraction of that number actually join the work force, the effects will reverberate throughout the UAE's economy in a number of positive ways, not least of which is greater employment opportunities for many UAE residents. Students, mothers, and others who have obligations that preclude them from working full-time now have an opportunity to contribute to the nation's economy.

Emirati women in particular stand to benefit from this change. At present, Emirati women outnumber men in the country's public universities but are still far behind when it comes to employment. Women, both expatriates and nationals, comprise 30 per cent of the total workforce. Flexible working hours, which allow companies to hire part-time staff, may encourage many more to punch a time-card each day.

The law may also herald the possibility of a new generation of students who are able to graduate from school with work experience. Now that those above the age of 15 are allowed to work - another change to the labour law that came into effect this year - students will have more opportunities to sample different types of work before they pursue a career.

While the specifics of part-time have yet to be ironed out, its legalisation allows companies and individuals to better respond to the needs of the market. Emiratis who work part-time jobs can also reduce the country's demand on foreign labour and expertise. While flexibility is required in a labour market, the commitment to Emiratisation is something that must be kept.