x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Statistics suggest sorry state of Emiratisation in private sector

A study by the National Bureau of Statistics highlights the failure to lure nationals away from 'status symbol' government jobs.

DUBAI // Emiratis make up only 0.5 per cent of employees in the private sector, a study reveals.

Only 19,874 of the 3,895,695 people in the private sector are Emirati, according to the 2011 Labour Report, which was this week published online by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Dubai has the highest number of Emiratis in the private sector with 9,857, followed by Abu Dhabi with 6,898 and Sharjah with 1,691.

The bureau has since removed the report from the website and would not comment further on its results.

“We are not aware of any technical problems within our statistical system,” a spokesman said.

Radhika Punshi, a lead researcher at Aon Hewitt, a global human-resources consultancy, said she was not surprised by the findings.

“So far, the public sector has offered better conditions and has had a positive status symbol attached to it,” she said. “Research shows Emiratis like to work in the public sector because they feel like they are building their community and contributing to the development of the nation.”

Ms Punshi believes the private sector has been unsuccessful in attracting and retaining Emiratis because of misconceptions by both employers and potential staff.

“Most private-sector organisations think of Emiratisation as a ‘quota to be filled’ or an added cost,” she said. “But perceptions on both sides are beginning to change and private-sector companies have a big opportunity to shift this pattern.”

Ms Punshi cited research from Wollongong University and Abu Dhabi University that suggests Emiratis working in the private sector enjoy better job satisfaction.

“It showed that Emiratis are actually more committed and satisfied with their private-sector jobs,” she said. “Younger Emiratis are also looking more towards the private sector as many feel that the public sector is too bureaucratic. The private sector should think beyond the quotas and just hiring the numbers of Emiratis, and see it as a chance to engage and retain national talent.”

Ms Punshi said hiring companies tended to opt for nationals from the Northern Emirates.

“Emiratis from Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah demand less [remuneration], so companies are finding them more attractive,” she said.

The National Bureau of Statistics also found that more than half of the Emiratis in the private sector were women – 10,423.

“There has been higher demand for Emirati women in the private sector because many feel that they are harder working and willing to perform,” Ms Punshi explained.

Nadia Abdulaziz, the Emirati director of logistics company UNASCO, admitted that hiring Emiratis could be a challenge.

“It’s very difficult to find qualified Emiratis willing to work in the private sector,” she said. “Very few have the experience and the know-how, and those who do usually own their own company.”

Mrs Abdulaziz said she tried to hire Emiratis and made recruiting them a priority, but none seemed to stay.

“They are attracted by the benefits, shorter working hours and job security that the government sector provides,” she said.
Hamza Zaouli, head of Iris Executives, which specialises in the recruitment of Emiratis, said the benefits of the public sector outstripped the private for nationals.

“Until government sector and private sectors line up – in terms of salaries, working hours – we cannot blame the private sector for not being able to [recruit] as much as it would want.”

Up to 210,000 Emiratis are expected to join the workforce by 2019, Ms Punshi said. But the only way Government can achieve its aim of having 20 to 30 per cent of private workers be nationals in the next decade is to influence decisions early on.

“The public sector will be saturated, so new jobs will have to come from the private and SME sectors,” Ms Punshi  said. “The public sector will always remain attractive but within the next 10 years we do expect things to change.”

malkhan@thenational.ae