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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

UAE minister told of frustration at Emirati unemployment levels

Graduates told they are under or over-qualified, claims representative

UAE nationals speak to recruiters at at Tawdheef, a job fair open to Emiratis, at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Silvia Razgova / The National
UAE nationals speak to recruiters at at Tawdheef, a job fair open to Emiratis, at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Silvia Razgova / The National

Thousands of Emirati graduates are unable to secure jobs, often being told they are either over or underqualified, members of the Federal National Council heard on Tuesday.

Ras Al Khaimah representative Salem Al Shehhi said he had received complaints from what he claimed were “thousands of Emiratis” unable to find jobs.

“When a master’s graduate applies for a job, they tell him ‘we want someone who only has a bachelor’s degree’”, he told the chamber.

“And when a university graduate applies they tell him ‘we wish you had only a high school degree’.”

Mr Al Shehhi also said that government ministries recruit now only if an employee dies, retires or resigns, “and this is the vision of the authorities until 2021”.

“So what was the point of studying? There are thousands of graduates, where can they go?”

The most recent unemployment figures for Emiratis are several years old, and members yesterday said the most up-to-date figures they were handed were from 2011, when unemployment among UAE nationals was 13 per cent.

Separate reports from Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi, covering only that emirate, in 2014 placed it at 4 per cent.

“We have to make it clear that the hardest issue we face is when a local says he wants a job, wants to settle and get married, but it turns out to be his biggest challenge in life,” he told representatives from the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (Fahr).

“We don’t know what to tell them, some have been waiting for to find a job for three or four years. This has been leading to a delay in marriages and reproduction.”

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Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, the head of the authority, disputed that and said that “there will be more than 7,685 job vacancies next year”.

“The role of the authority is to support and preserve jobs for thousands of nationals in federal governments,” he said. “When I became minister of higher education we had the highest percentage of vacancies at the ministry,” he said in reference to his previous position.

Mr Al Shehhi said the minister’s reply would not satisfy the people he represents.

“Today we already have thousands of jobless Emiratis, imagine how many we will have by 2021,” he said.

“You are creating a trend of unemployment, the 7,000 vacancies do not mean much when compared to the number of graduates.”

According to figures presented by an FNC committee, last year 8,000 non-Emirati employees (10 per cent of the total expatriate workforce), filled administrative and financial posts in the federal government. Members said these jobs could have been filled by UAE nationals.

FNC member Marwan bin Ghlaitha, Dubai, questioned the accuracy of that figure, and member Saeed Al Remeithi, Abu Dhabi, said the correct figure for such posts probably exceeded 30,000.

The committee report also showed that Emiritisation rates dropped in 19 federal institutions last year by 38.3 per cent, but gave no specific numbers.

Mr Al Shehhi said there are Emiratis with very impressive resumes “who should have been hired without even being interviewed, but unfortunately the reality is the contrary”.

Sharjah member Ayesha bin Samnoh agreed that she met many impressive female graduates who were stuck at home after failing to find a job.

“Every graduate tells of a tragedy, some have been graduates for one or two or three years, and they had to stay at home, and they all graduated with high grades, but all of the job interviews they did required experience.”

She proposed training programmes for them to get the experience required by recruiters.

“The authority is not responsible for training nationals to enter the job market, but to recruit them in the authority we do not require they have experience, we welcome fresh graduates,” the minister said.

Moreover, he said there has been a suggestion to create a fund that trains Emiratis though the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, “and many jobs at the federal government do not require experience”.