x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

FNC would like Emiratisation to become law

FNC members grilled two government ministers demanding answers to the problem of unsuccessful Emiratisation.

Humaid Al Qattami, Minister of Education, discussed the issues facing Emiratisation with the FNC. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
Humaid Al Qattami, Minister of Education, discussed the issues facing Emiratisation with the FNC. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
ABU DHABI // A revamp of the labour law and a decree requiring companies to employ UAE nationals would reduce unemployment, ministers told the Federal National Council on Tuesday.

Emiratis comprise only 0.5 per cent of the private sector workforce but 60 per cent of the public sector, and FNC members sought solutions in a six-hour debate with Humaid Al Qattami, Minister of Education, and Abdullah Ghobash, Minister of State.

The ministers shared members' concerns over mixed results from Emiratisation attempts and the record unemployment rate of 15 per cent, but said they were doing their best and were aware of issues hindering Emiratisation.

Mr Ghobash declined to confirm that unemployment was 15 per cent, although the figure of 40,000 unemployed was based on information from the Ministry of Labour.

Members said it was an issue at any number, and called for the Government to subsidise Emirati salaries in the private sector, ensure they were protected against an influx of expatriate workers and give non-working Emiratis unemployment benefits.

Although 2013 was known as the Year of Emiratisation, FNC member Marwan bin Ghalita (Dubai) said the only noticeable progress was in companies pledging to take part, but not acting.

In 2012, 1,700 nationals were recruited in the private sector, with the number this year dropping to about 1,000, according to Mr Al Qattami.

Mr Ghobash said a solution to attracting national talent to private-sector work was essential.

"How do we convince locals that this sector is important to the country's economy?" he said. "Our nationals are able to work. From them we can create strong generations who can take on work in the private sector."

One of the issues affecting Emiratisation, Ministry of Labour officials said, was that 3.2 million of an estimated four million private sector workers were "ineffective" and had no real tasks or roles in their companies.

Dr Mona Al Baher (Dubai) proposed that Emiratis should be able to fill all types of occupations, and the notion that some jobs were not suitable for them should change.

"Why can't Emiratis work in maintenance inside houses?" she said. Such a profession had become very profitable recently as the cost of services increased.

Moreover, relying completely on foreign labour threatened national security, she said.

"What if one day they decide to go on strike? We will leave the country unserved. Who will fill in for them?"

Another member argued that Emiratis should work at places like hotels, as nationals of other countries do.

Hamad Al Rahoomi (Dubai) said more Emiratis jobs would result in a population increase, because then more men could marry. He said this would also help to marry off single women.

While the ministers acknowledged the suggestions, they repeated that they were working to solve the issues raised.

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) said he was disappointed that during such an important debate, the Government did not announce any projects to increase Emiratisation, instead leaving the ministers to reassure the council with words only.

Mr Ghobash assured him and other members that his ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Labour to come up with a concrete plan.

"There have been positive strides made to reach a law to oblige the private sector to meet Emriatisation needs," he said.