x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nurseries help all Emiratis contribute

Providing on-site nurseries will allow more Emirati women to balance motherhood and a career

As with many good ideas, providing nursery spaces for the children of Emirati mothers working in government offices has been met with a degree of reluctance.

But in places where it has been offered, it has proved popular, to the point where demand far exceeds supply.

Popularity with parents is an important test for the worth of an initiative such as this, but the provision of on-site nurseries is important for reasons far wider than that.

At the heart of this is improving the participation of Emirati women at all levels of society.

One of the great benefits of the UAE’s bounty is that in Emirati families where the mother chooses to leave paid work and devote her time to raising her children, she can often afford to do so.

But if a mother wishes to balance motherhood with pursuing a professional career, workplace nurseries ease the path for her to do that too. This allows a broader spectrum of society to contribute to the nation’s development and avoids the cost of replacing key staff.

Support for working mothers comes from the highest levels of government. The edict that federal and local government offices must provide nursery facilities if there are more than 50 female Emirati staff, or where the Emirati mothers have more than 20 children, was made at Cabinet level.

The Cabinet rule was enacted in 2006 but seven years on, only about one in 10 government departments have set up on-site nurseries despite it being a requirement for most offices.

Some departments have refused because the space where a nursery might be did not meet health and safety standards. The only thing worse than not having a nursery is having a potentially hazardous one, but such deficiencies can be addressed.

But sometimes it is simple reluctance or institutional inertia.

Emirati women deserve better than that and the nation will benefit from having the broadest representation of its citizens in the workplace.