Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

10 charts that paint a picture of Emiratisation

A very small number of citizens work in the private sector but a new government campaign looks to change that

Training sessions are held at the three-day Emiratisation forum and jobs fair Tawteen 360 at Dubai World Trade Centre in April 2018. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Training sessions are held at the three-day Emiratisation forum and jobs fair Tawteen 360 at Dubai World Trade Centre in April 2018. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The policy of emiratisation - or Tawteen in Arabic - is a key priority of the UAE. It mandates the inclusion of Emiratis in the job market, especially in the private sector. The aim is to increase the number of UAE nationals in the job market and their contribution to the economy.

By increasing the number of Emiratis in work, it is hoped that the UAE will reduce its reliance on expat labour and have a more diverse workforce for its citizens.

This week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, said that 20,000 new jobs would be created for Emiratis over the next three years, in the banking, aviation, communication, insurance and property sectors. 'Managerial' positions in government will be reserved for Emiratis.

Citizens will also be given priority for 160 job titles in the private sector, although the list of jobs is yet to be released.

Here, using official statistics published by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, we look at where Emiratisation is today.

What problem is Emiratisation designed to solve?

The most recent available data from 2017 shows that fewer than half of Emiratis are participants in the labour market. Of those that are, vast majority work in the public sector.

Labour market participation is generally defined as a measure of the number of working age people who are employed or actively looking for a job.

The high number of women who leave to have children and do not return to work is thought to account for this figure.

This compares with more than four in five non-Emiratis in the UAE who are counted as being part of the labour market.

This is typically much higher as most residents' visas are provided by their employer.

Public or private: Which sectors do people in the UAE work in?

The statistics show that in 2017 more than 80 per cent of employed Emiratis worked in the federal or local government, with fewer than one in ten in the private sector. In addition to this, many Emiratis work for government-owned or semi-government businesses such as local banks.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of expats work in the private sector.

Growing the private sector, thereby reducing economic dependence on oil, is another key priority for the UAE.

As the figures show, very few expats work in federal government - for example ministries - and that may be reduced further by the Cabinet decision to reserve all managerial roles for Emiratis. The employment of expats in local government - agencies, transport departments and education regulators - is more prevalent but still uncommon.

Is there a gender divide?

Yes, among both expat and UAE national communities, men are far more likely to be working or actively looking for a job than women. The 2017 statistics show that among male expats, the labour force participation rate is close to 95 per cent.

Emirati men are more likely to work than expat women, although fewer than one in three Emirati women are part of the labour force. This suggests that to meet Emiratisation goals, the government will have to encourage more Emirati women to enter the workforce.

The chart shows close to 60 per cent of Emirati women are active in the workforce by their mid-twenties. But this begins to fall as they enter their thirties - probably as they begin families and have children - and employment drops significantly among Emirati women in their forties. The vast majority of Emirati men in the workforce remain working until their fifties.

Unsurprisingly, given visa and residency rules, expat men continue to work to work until retirement age.

How many hours do people in the UAE work?

The figures show that most Emiratis who are employed typically work for, at most, 40 hours per week. A very small number of people in the UAE, both among citizens and expats, are employed but do not work any hours at all, the figures suggest. It is unclear whether these are business owners who do little day to day work, a small but growing number of expats that are retiring in the UAE but still hold a visa, or another explanation.

Among employed non-UAE nationals, average hours worked are longer, the data shows. Most of those employed, both men and women, work for 49 hours per week or longer.

Why do Emiratis work shorter hours?

Working hours in government offices and departments tend to be shorter - typically 7.30am until 2.30pm. But another explanation is the higher education levels of Emirati workers, compared to expats. A university education opens doors to professional jobs, which typically have shorter hours than, for example, unskilled labour roles on construction projects or working in retail.

The data shows that almost one in three expat workers do not have a secondary-school level education.

However, Emiratis, in general, have far better qualifications, with the vast majority having completed a full secondary school education and more than a third holding degrees.

Is Emiratisation working?

Comparing the 2016 and 2017 reports, the answer appears to be yes – but slowly. A lot of progress appears to have been made on encouraging more Emirati women into the workforce. A rise of 1.5 per cent may not sound like much, but it is a positive achievement in just 12 months.

However, the labour force participation rate among Emirati men dropped from 64.1 per cent in 2016 to 62.9 per cent in 2017.

The overall workforce participation rate among all Emiratis increased by 0.1 per cent over the 12 months, but it is clear the UAE’s leadership would like to see swifter progress.

Companies, recruiters and the private sector as a whole will be watching closely for the release of the list of 160 job types that Emiratis must be given priority for. And there will be great interest in how many young Emirati graduates grasp the opportunity to take on such jobs.

It should be noted that it takes time for statistics to be collected and published, meaning the picture may have changed since the data was collected.

Updated: October 1, 2019 05:53 PM

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