Drive to upgrade skills of expat workforce
ABU DHABI // Almost half of the country’s expatriate workforce will be made up of skilled workers by 2021 under new regulations announced at a meeting of the Federal National Council on Tuesday.
Ministers were also told about new rules making it compulsory for overseas workers to present a good-conduct certificate from their home countries before they can work in the Emirates.
Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, told the council the ministry was working to boost the number of highly skilled workers, such as those who hold a diploma or above, to 40 per cent of the workforce.
The ministry is also working on ways to increase production by the UAE’s non-oil sectors by 5 per cent a year.
“This is not possible if the workers’ skills are not elevated,” Mr Ghobash said. “This is a challenge that shows to what extent the government is keen on shifting towards a competitive, knowledge-driven economy.”
The minister gave the example of the construction industry where the Smart Building System, which was launched last October, is regulating the number of limited-skill workers in the sector with the aim of reducing their number by 30 per cent.
“Municipalities from all over the country have been involved in this,” he said.
Training centres around the UAE and abroad, in particular in countries such as India and Pakistan, will ensure the majority of the expat workforce are skilled and hold qualifications.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is conducting a study along with the Finance Ministry looking into raising employment fees paid by companies to hire limited-skill workers, Mr Ghobash said.
“This will cause a turning point in attracting a skilled workforce.
“As a result of everything I mentioned, the percentage of high-skilled workers has increased from 400,000 to 600,000 in the past five years, and by 20 per cent for labourers.”
The UAE is ranked third in the world when it comes to attracting skilled workers, and is third globally when it comes to retaining them, the minister said.
Rola Almoheid, an HR consultant, said if companies restructure and screen their employees the right way, they will recruit staff who are highly skilled for the job.
Because many operations have become automated, companies did not need as many staff as they used to, she said. “One highly skilled worker could compensate for three average employees.”
However, what often happens is companies invest heavily in consultants to look at the restructuring process and then, as a result, cannot afford to hire highly qualified staff.
“They get rid of high salaries and keep those with low salaries and end up expanding the problem upon themselves.”
Mr Ghobash also told the FNC that a report into making good-conduct certificates a precondition for expats who wished to work in the Emirates would be available in a few weeks.
The certificates, issued by the expat’s country of origin, must be accredited by the UAE embassy in that country.
A joint committee of the Interior, Foreign and Human Resources Ministries, formed during the cabinet meeting in October last year, will put together the report.
“This pre-condition has been approved and the role of the committee is to set the terms and conditions and assign responsibilities.”
FNC member Hamad Al Rohoumi, from Dubai, said good conduct certificates were crucial to maintain security in a country that is home to millions of foreign workers.
Those with a criminal record are likely to end up facing charges again here and go on to burden the country’s jails, he said, adding that the system should be linked with all GCC countries, especially when it comes to domestic workers.
Mrs Almoheid said such a pre-requisite makes sense for most of the workforce, but in the case of labourers it could prove to be quite inconvenient.
“Labourers are brought in large numbers, and usually they come from villages which means they will have to pay the cost of moving to the city to issue such a certificate.”
Updated: January 10, 2017 04:00 AM