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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

'It will teach me how to better myself': UAE pupils and recruiters welcome part-time work decree

A decree that allows pupils to work part-time will give pupils realistic expectations, say recruiters

Mohammed Al Shamsi,14, says he can't wait to get a part-time job so he can earn money to help his parents. Victor Besa / The National
Mohammed Al Shamsi,14, says he can't wait to get a part-time job so he can earn money to help his parents. Victor Besa / The National

Mohammed Al Shamsi is at an age when many take their first foray into formal employment.

The 14-year-old is looking forward to the day he earns his first pay cheque but he will have to wait. In the UAE, where employment is connected to a sponsorship system, part-time work for pupils is almost unheard of.

This is about to change. On Saturday, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation issued a decree allowing school pupils aged 15 and above to work paid part-time jobs. With permission from a guardian, pupils will be able to work up to three months at a time during school holidays.

For teenagers like Mohammed, this is welcomed news. “Honestly, I can’t wait to get started,” said the year 10 pupil. “I want to finally earn money so I can feel a lot more pride when spending it, as well as help my parents like they helped me all these years.”

While young people in Gulf states like Oman and Saudi Arabia may begin work in their teens and take service sector jobs, children raised in the UAE often do not enter the workforce until they complete their studies in their early twenties.

The new policy will benefit both pupils and employers, said recruiters.

“We’ve done a lot of research on this recently and what we find is both university and high school students continue to say they’re not prepared for the workplace,” said Radikha Punshi, the managing director at HR consultancy The Talent Enterprise. “For employers it allows them to connect a bit more to the education sector, so it’s long overdue.”

The decree is expected to boost Emiratisation and allow pupils to find a suitable career.

“The more exposure they have as early as possible, the more realistic they’re going to become and the more mindful they’re going to be about their studies,” said Hamza Zaouali, the head of Iris Executives, a recruiter specialising in Emiratisation. “The challenge with the school system is that we ask pupils to make lifetime choices without the experience to make these choices. This law means that they are going to have tools to make better decisions.”

However, recruiters cautioned that it will take time for the resolution to have an impact in the employment market.

“There’s currently a bit of an oversupply of experienced talent,” said Mohammed Osama, the general manager of The Gulf Recruitment Group. “You do have a lot of graduates, a lot of 20 or 22-year-olds who have already graduated with a bachelor’s degree who are willing to work part time just to get any work.

“It’s a good initiative, it should be there and will hopefully be beneficial when things pick up.”

Employers may be reluctant to invest resources in short term employees but could provide pre-placement offers so they can benefit, said Ms Punshi. She said the new policy will prepare the workforce for the hundreds of part-time positions needed at Dubai Expo 2020.

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Mohammed, who receives a monthly allowance of Dh1,000, said he would work for as little as Dh10 an hour in at a fast-food restaurant or as a sales clerk. “I am all for anything that will make me learn more,” he said. “I want to gain the experience, I would also get money and I think it will teach me how to better myself.”

Others were less sure. “I don’t think I would because I would rather focus on my education,” said Mohammed Alsemaan, a 15-year-old at Al Raha School who receives a monthly allowance of Dh1,000. “I need time more than money."

Experience, however, can be priceless.

“The fact that it’s not compulsory means it immediately gives a head start to the students with the best attitude,” said Mr Zaouali. “It gives the tools for the most mature people to really set the pace.”

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