x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Change is vital if Emiratisation is to succeed

A key difficulty in implementing Emiratisation - resistance to change - arose in the past few days when residents of Ras al Khaimah and Ajman complained about the huge development projects that are being planned in both emirates.

A key difficulty in implementing Emiratisation - resistance to change - arose in the past few days when residents of Ras al Khaimah and Ajman complained about the huge development projects that are being planned in both emirates. "We never asked for any of these developments," one RAK resident told this newspaper. The head of Tanmia, the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority, responded by saying that many Emiratis seemed to be unwilling to adapt to the rapidly changing times. "Residents of RAK and Ajman are afraid to modernise because they are stuck in the past and are far too conservative," said Feddah Lootah, Tanmia's general manager.

Both emirates estimate that they need to import 200,000 foreign workers each to build the billions of dirhams worth of projects that have been planned. Ms Lootah said that these figures were so high because of a lack of Emiratis willing to take the jobs on offer seriously. This is a sad assessment of the state of the Emirati workforce. While it is true that, like in other Gulf countries, Emiratis prefer to work in government jobs where there are better salaries, more job security and shorter working hours, it is also a fact that much more needs to be done in terms of education and training to prepare them to meet the challenges of modernisation.

One of the reasons that these development projects were placed in the northern emirates, according to Ms Lootah, was to give employment opportunities to Emiratis living there so that they would not end up waiting for jobs that would never materialise. The head of Tanmia blamed the negative attitude of Ajman and RAK residents on an education system that is not up to par with schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. She said that a lack of proper career guidance meant that many students from the northern emirates were not majoring in subjects in demand in the marketplace, such as engineering and accountancy. Another factor hindering Emiratisation is the reluctance of some families to allow their daughters to work in such fields as the hospitality industry. Ms Lootah said that Tanmia has 15 projects aimed at getting Emiratis jobs in the hospitality industry, but that they have not shown enough interest in them.

A solution to this impasse needs to come from both sides. Residents of the northern emirates will have to realise that without the new developments being created, there will not be sufficient jobs to absorb all of the unemployed. The local governments, for their part, will have to work harder at preparing young Emiratis to compete in a competitive market that is moving away from reliance on oil wealth or government-led development to sustain itself. The days of jobs for life toiling in a government entity are gone. Tourism has become the UAE's leading source of income after oil, and Emiratis will have to accept that fact if they want to successfully embrace the future.