x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Retail has roles for every jobless Emirati

Jobs in retail could eliminate unemployment, but few Emiratis would take them.

DUBAI // Jobs in the private sector could easily eradicate the 14 per cent unemployment rate among Emiratis, research shows.

The wholesale and retail trade, could employ 300,000 Emiratis - every unemployed citizen.

Ahmad Ghannoum and Hassan Ali, authors of the research paper Harnessing the Full Potential of Emirati Human Capital, say a lack of awareness and misconceptions about the private sector mean many such positions go to expatriates.

Only 43,000 Emiratis occupy the 2.2 million jobs in the private sector.

The study, by a management consulting company, TCO, suggests the job market in the UAE appears smaller than it is because many jobs are "unattractive" to Emiratis.

"The wholesale and retail trade accounts for 15 per cent of the jobs in the UAE, yet only 1.9 per cent of Emiratis occupy jobs in this sector," said Mr Ghannoum. "Are these against religion and culture? No, because Emiratis have always been traders. But is it against social prestige?"

The report suggests 56.3 per cent of jobs are in sectors not favoured by Emiratis, such as construction.

"Only 6 per cent of Emiratis occupy these jobs, possibly because of culture, religion or social prestige, even though many of these sectors do not conflict with religious or social expectations," said Mr Ghannoum.

Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, managing director of an Emiratisation consultancy, Next Level, said: "We must focus more on building [the private sector's] capacity to take on Emiratis. Strategies can be developed by the government to tap in to these sectors."

Dahlia Simmons, a skills development manager for a recruitment agency, Working Links, said building awareness at school was essential.

"With the correct sector skills training before graduation, Emiratis would fully appreciate the opportunities available in various industries," she said. "There will always be issues surrounding the sale of alcohol, for example. However, if the manager of the establishment is an Emirati, they would have the understanding to employ non-Muslims as waiting staff."

Ahmed Al Hashemi, 28, an Emirati who has worked in the public and private sector, admitted nationals stayed away from some industries.

"But there are also lots of misconceptions," he said. "Not all private companies are anti-Emirati."

Research co-author Mr Ali said misconceptions abound on both sides.

"A lot of people in the private sector perceive Emiratis as they were in the 90s - laid-back, demanding." he said. "These stereotypes fuel the tendency to resist hiring Emiratis."

Mr Al Hashimi said the private sector had to engage with Emiratis on a continuous basis to bridge the gap.

"The reluctance to employ Emiratis cannot be based on hearsay or a bad experience they might have had with a few UAE nationals," he said. "But the same is true for Emiratis."