x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Push to get UAE nationals in private-sector jobs

The private sector has been told not to attract Emiratis on the basis of salary, but on the basis of career progression and other benefits.

The private sector has traditionally found it difficult to attract Emiratis because they do not pay as well as the public sector. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The private sector has traditionally found it difficult to attract Emiratis because they do not pay as well as the public sector. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // Private companies cannot compete with government salaries in attracting Emirati recruits – and they were advised yesterday not to try.

“They should compete on the basis of career progression, responsibilities, learning, education – these are the elements where the private sector can promote itself,” said Nasser Thani Juma Al Hamli, an assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.

“The discussion has to be, ‘I’m going to provide career progression, appropriate experience, learning and education, and in three years’ time you will be able to be XYZ’. That’s the discussion, because that’s where the public sector cannot compete.”

He said an Emirati with a diploma joining a ministry would start with a salary of Dh18,000 to Dh20,000, but would remain at about the same salary level for the next five or six years.

“If I was a UAE national who joined the private sector in a professional career I might start at Dh10,000,” he said.

“But, with appropriate training and development, within three years I would reach Dh22,000 and within two years more I might reach a senior position.”

Mr Al Hamli said: “We have sat with the chairmen of these companies and their best salaries go up to Dh150,000 – senior government officials do not get this amount. If you join the private sector at the appropriate level with appropriate career ladder you will be able to progress, and you’ll get more money as you go.

“If you join the government you will stay at the entry level, maybe you’ll have an increment here and there, but it’s no match for the private sector.”

Mr Al Hamli was speaking at a meeting in Dubai at which details of the ministry’s new Absher initiative to place more Emirati graduates in private sector jobs were presented to companies interested in joining the scheme.

Recruits will be paid a minimum salary of Dh10,000, with the ministry covering 30 per cent. In addition, Dh10,000 will be provided for training. Recruits will remain in the scheme for up to eight months, after which they must be offered a permanent job.

“If the company does not place an individual who has successfully passed the programme in full-time employment as per the agreement, then the ministry has the right to claim whatever damages it sees fit,” added Mr Al Hamli. “We have the right to be paid back everything we have invested in the programme.”

The scheme is being implemented by the ministry’s partner organisations – Tawteen Council in Abu Dhabi, Tanmia in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates, and the Emirates Nationals Development Programme in Dubai.

Essa Al Mulla, executive director of the ENDP, said: “I think this is a great initiative, we are moving in the right direction. The private sector used to say that the government was not involving itself financially.

“Today the government says, ‘No, we are involving ourselves with the cash, we are paying part of the salary and the training’.”

Juma Al Majid Group has already signed up to take part in the scheme.

Helen MacIntosh, head of human capital and talent management, said after yesterday’s presentation: “I think overall we’re very positive. I’ve no concerns at the moment because the partners from the government have made it very clear that they are 100 per cent committed to providing support.

“As expatriates we are here to serve the country and develop the nationals.”

The programme has been welcomed by senior executives in the recruitment industry. Ayman Haddad, managing director, Middle East and Africa, at DHR International, said: “Definitely it is a great idea and the cornerstone to build talent for the long term in the UAE.

“It’s very critical to the UAE economy to fly with its two wings – the public and private sectors – drawing on the strength of the national talent, including women.”