Women in one of the most traditional Emirati cities are urging employers to expand their operations in Al Ain.
Al Ain women seek better job options
AL AIN // Women are urging employers to expand their operations in Al Ain, saying they have trouble finding jobs in one of the most traditional Emirati cities. A study released this week by Ain Al Mustaqbal, a partnership between the Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group and the Emirates Foundation's Tawteen programme to help nationals find jobs, confirmed that employment opportunities for women in the city were scarce. Among the reasons, it said, were a shortage of attractive jobs, a lack of experience, cultural limitations and family responsibilities.
The study also found that, in 2005, Al Ain contributed only 11 per cent to the emirate's gross domestic product, the most common measure of economic ouput, even though it had 33 per cent of its population. The year before, Al Ain residents had an average monthly income of Dh4,600 (US$1,250) while Abu Dhabi residents averaged Dh6,300. The study further revealed that 70 per cent of young women from Al Ain in the Tawteen database are recorded as never having been employed, because they lack experience.
Noor Kamali, 20, represented UAE young people at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and was president of the student council at the local branch of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) from 2007 to 2008. She has looked for work the past four months and has not received a response. "I have a strong CV and a very high grade point average of 3.76 but am still unable to find work," Ms Kamali said.
"I may be getting turned down due to the fact that I have no paid work experience, or maybe it's that there simply aren't enough jobs here, I just don't know." Ghada al Nuemi, 21, who has been looking for a job since June, said: "It is easier to get a job in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, but I cannot leave my family and move out there. In our society women stay at home with their families until they marry. Moving out is just not done."
Ms al Nuemi, who obtained a business and technology degree from HCT with a grade point average of 3.69, also has not found work despite applying to dozens of companies and government agencies in Al Ain. "I am putting myself out there - applying to companies with branches in Al Ain - but no one ever calls back," she said. "I have gone to career fairs, applied online and in person and am really trying but it seems like there aren't enough jobs here."
Ms al Nuemi said that in Al Ain, 'wasta', (influential connections), seems to be needed to get a job with an acceptable salary. "Wasta is a big problem in Al Ain," she said. "Those who have connections or friends and family with wasta use them to get jobs. Al Ain is a small city and everyone knows someone who can use influence to get them a job. Even my family has wasta but I don't want to use it. I want to be hired based on my own abilities, I want employers to choose me for me."
Ms al Nuemi said her older sister remained unemployed for two years until she found a job as a teacher. "I will not wait at home for that long," she said. "If I don't get a paying job soon, I will go back to school. People who sit at home doing nothing begin to forget what they learned. I am eager to apply what I learned." The objective of Ain Al Mustaqbal is to define and implement programmes and measures overcome factors that contribute to female unemployment in Al Ain. These measures include matching jobs and potential employees with one another, as well as encouraging and facilitating Abu Dhabi entities to create jobs in Al Ain.
"I challenge employers to invest in Al Ain itself and its students," Ms Kamali said. "We are just as capable as the women of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We want to be given the opportunity to show that we do have as much as they do to contribute." Mouza al Bert, 20, obtained a degree in business management from HCT last summer. "I have been looking for a job since [then] and have applied in person and online, but have only received one call-back," she said. "I was told that there was a job for me but then was told that the company was experiencing problems and could not hire me at the time.
"I was told that when the problems were resolved, I would be hired. That was back in June. Maybe they will call back or maybe they won't but I do know that I have met their requirements and am qualified to do the job. "Companies need to expand to Al Ain to provide residents here with opportunities. Companies need to train people here or take on interns to try them out. This happens in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but it doesn't happen as much here in Al Ain because the companies prefer to train people at their head offices.
"If companies understand that Al Ain has an employment problem and invest in the city, residents will reward them by frequenting their businesses. They will find that there are very strong candidates here. There is a high rate of unemployment here, and companies should take on the responsibility of reducing that. "There is a quote from Bill Clinton that I keep in my mind all the time. Mr Clinton once said, 'I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organises life. It gives structure and discipline to life'."