x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Emiratis steer clear of taxi-driving jobs

Attempt to recruit Emiratis as taxi drivers in Sharjah is described as a "complete failure", by a senior transport official.

SHARJAH // An attempt to recruit Emiratis as taxi drivers in Sharjah has been a "complete failure", according to a senior transport official. Despite embracing a programme of Emiratisation, the Sharjah Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) said all of the nearly 20,000 taxi-driving positions in the emirate continue to be filled by expatriates. Emiratis were actively recruited and promised higher wages relative to those of other nationalities, although SPTC officials would not give details.

Mohammed al Shamsi, the chairman of the board of directors of the SPTC, told the Sharjah Consultative Council the results were disappointing. "We admit this whole campaign was a complete failure," he said, responding to a question from the council member Abdullah Sultan bin Khadim about the progress of Emiratisation. "We have tried several times, and I will tell you that we shall continue trying."

Mr bin Khadim asked why taxi drivers' jobs were mostly dominated by Pakistanis and said the programme had failed to take hold as it should have. "It is dangerous to put the emirate's whole transport sector in the hands of just one nationality," he said. "Imagine if there is a problem with such a nationality. The whole public transport services would crumble." "There are many nationals of this country who don't have jobs and would manage to do the driving job but are not given a chance or encouraged," he continued.

Officials said there had been almost no Emirati interest in such jobs. Mr al Shamsi said that since the SPTC launched the Emiratisation process among taxi drivers almost five years ago, only one national had enquired about a position as a driver. "He called in the evening saying that he wanted a job as a driver, and in the morning, we called him back - he said he didn't want the job anymore," Mr al Shamsi said. "We asked him why and if he had got another job - he said he was a national and was content to remain unemployed if he didn't get a decent job as a national."

However, he added that the SPTC had achieved 78 per cent Emiratisation in administrative posts, which he said was an impressive statistic. Sharjah is not the only emirate that has tried to hire more Emiratis in the transport industry. Last summer, TransAD, Abu Dhabi's taxi regulator, advertised jobs for retired Emiratis in Arabic-language newspapers, urging them to apply to be taxi and limousine drivers.

Huda al Kaabi, spokeswoman for TransAD, said such drivers could be ambassadors for the capital, sharing their knowledge of the nation's culture and history. At the moment, the seven private firms operating cabs in the emirate rely on recruitment from countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines. In March, a senior project director for Serco, which operates the Dubai Metro, said the company wanted 30 per cent of Metro jobs to go to Emiratis. Nationals would fill supervisory and managerial roles, project director Paul Anderson said.

In other business, the council member Maryam Salem al Murshada asked SPTC officials to explain delays in establishing a separate lane for large vehicles in the emirate, a move designed to reduce traffic congestion and accidents. Abdullah Mohammed al Zarri, the director general of SPTC, said that the agency already had organised a full study on the project, but that it was still awaiting a response from Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority.