Diversifying the country’s economy and investing in human development are among the main challenges facing the UAE, according to economists.
More diversity needed in UAE workforce
ABU DHABI // Diversifying the economy and investing in human development are among the main challenges facing the UAE, economists say.
“We all know that oil wealth is a depleting wealth and we should leave part of what we have now to the future generation,” said Dr Fatima Al Shamsi, economist and deputy vice chancellor of administration at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.
“It requires jobs and support for entrepreneurs, support for SMEs, jobs for the youth, promoting creativity and innovation and giving citizens activities to contribute to the country’s development.
“The state needs to partner with the private sector.”
Speaking at an event at Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research that she co-chaired with Dr Maitha Al Shamsi, Minister of State, Dr Fatima said the biggest challenge was “to diversify economic sectors and we should exert more efforts” away from oil dependence, which currently accounted for 40 per cent of GDP and 77 per cent of government revenue.
The second challenge was the small percentage of Emiratis in the UAE population.
“Everybody knows that the percentage of Emirati nationals in the UAE is still low considering the demographic structure,” she said. “It represents 16 per cent and decreased to 11 per cent in 2011 and this isn’t a healthy indicator.”
Emiratis in the labour force declined from 16 per cent in the early 1980s to 11 per cent in 2011.
“We need to adapt employment policies that aim to attend to this imbalance in the demographic structure,” Dr Fatima said.
“National unemployment rates vary between emirates, but according to the figures I have the unemployment in some emirates is more than 7 per cent.”
Dr Fatima’s sentiments were echoed by Dr Maitha.
“The main problems of economic development aren’t economic problems, but we need to focus on the social impact, the human being, and enhancing their capacity and improving their living conditions.”
Dr Maitha also raised the issue of food scarcity and the need for more local production, a vision of the late Sheikh Zayed.
“We face scarcity of water and a high cost of drinking water,” she said. “There is a lack of fertile soil. We need to not be consumers only but to produce what we consume.
“We should push our students more to work in the scientific field and research, then we can have more innovation, the development of desalination, of solar energy.”