Representatives say the drive to prioritise UAE nationals over foreign workers should be expanded
FNC members seek reassurance of jobs for Emiratis after new 10-year visa rules
The Federal National Council has urged the government to broaden its Emiratisation drive to secure more jobs for UAE nationals.
Members sought reassurances that there will be more opportunities for Emiratis, in the same week that 10-year visas for key expat workers were announced by the Cabinet.
Labour minister Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli was asked to expand a national policy in which about 2,000 companies are told to prioritise Emiratis over expats for jobs.
“We need a comprehensive procedure that includes the entire job market - and not just the sector that the ministry covers,” said Dubai member Hamad Al Rahoomi, in reference to 400 job titles that are targeted out for Emiratisation.
“There are other sectors outside the jurisdiction of the ministry, so for all those jobs Emiratis should be given a priority, whether private or public sector.”
The debate in the FNC, which was held overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday as is customary in Ramadan, came days after the most significant changes to residency rules in a decade were enacted on Sunday.
Members stressed they backed the changes, as long as Emiratis were not left behind.
The system brought in in February asks companies to consider citizens first when a vacancy arises.
Companies are not compelled to take UAE nationals on, but should give them an interview or opportunity they may not have otherwise received.
The ministry scans a database of thousands of Emirati jobseekers.
If a suitable candidate is not found, or is found but is rejected by the employer, the company can go ahead and recruit the expat.
But certain government departments, semi-government agencies, banks and many private sector companies do not come under the programme.
“They should all be under one comprehensive Emiratisation system, and through this system, work permits [for expats] can also be issued," said representative Mr Al Rahoomi.
The minister assured the council that the ministry is looking for ways to enhance job opportunities for UAE nationals. For example, they are introducing an initiative in September that guarantees each unemployed Emirati three job opportunities. That includes not only university graduates, but also those with a high school diploma or even lower qualifications.
“But the challenges are big, and we will work together to overcome those challenges,” he said.
The ministry has had a major push to get UAE nationals into jobs this year, said Mr Al Hamli.
There were 5,531 Emiratis recruited in the first four months of this year, up from 2,746 in the same period last year.
There were also 197,000 potential job vacancies in the private sector this year between January and April, he said.
Meanwhile, FNC members agreed that the new residency visa changes announced by the Cabinet this week - which offer visas of up to 10 years for specialists in medicine, science, research and technical fields and their families - will not affect the Emirati job market.
“On the contrary, I think it will provide more job opportunities for UAE nationals,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.
“It will bring more capital to be invested in the country and that will open up more fields for Emiratis to work in."
Investors bringing business and capital into the country will also be eligible for visas of up to 10 years, which are expected to stimulate job creation.
“It will provide wide opportunities," Mr Al Rahoomi added.
Ras Al Khaimah representative Naama Al Sharhan, also said: “We are certain that UAE nationals will continue to be prioritised for job opportunities, at the end of the day Emiratisation is a target set by the Rulers.
“And we welcome any non-Emirati person who will add value and we can benefit from his or her expertise and service if no Emirati is found to fill that job.”