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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Unemployment levels due to 'nepotism' and 'lack of opportunities', say Emiratis 

Jobless UAE nationals said there are few employment opportunities available, but specialist encourages students to 'adapt' to a creative age

Young Emiratis attend a job fare. Reem Mohammed / The National
Young Emiratis attend a job fare. Reem Mohammed / The National

A lack of previous experience and nepotism are among the reasons for high unemployment in the UAE, say Emirati job seekers.

On Tuesday, members of the Federal National Council heard that “thousands” of Emirati graduates are unable to secure jobs, often being told they are either over or underqualified. "“So what was the point of studying?" said Ras Al Khaimah representative Salem Al Shehhi. "There are thousands of graduates, where can they go?”

Emiratis said a few opportunities and poor salaries are making it difficult to find employment.

“I personally experienced a situation where the employer recruited a lady, not for her qualifications, but because she was a relative. We both applied for the same job and I’m considered more qualified than her, but they chose her,” Muna Al Hassani, a 21-year-old Emirati living in Fujairah, told The National.

“I finished high school in 2013 and for [personal] reasons I couldn’t continue my studies straight away, so I started to look for a job and to build up my skills,” said Ms Al Hassani.

“I took computer and English language courses, training courses for one of the telecom companies, applied for almost every opportunity I could find and did around seven job interviews, but without any luck.”

Ms Al Hassani also said that most of the vacant positions she found asked for a bachelor’s degree or previous experience, so she gave up her search and continued her studies.

“Now I’m studying to obtain a degree in business management and still looking for a part-time job,” she said, “but the situation is frustrating and I hope that I will find a job after graduation.”

Emirati Fatima Mousa, a 37-year-old mother of three from Hatta, said she had to leave her job in 2011 to stay with her sick child.

“I resigned because I couldn’t fulfil my duties at work due to the health condition of my newborn baby boy, and since that day I’m jobless,” she said.

“After my son got better, I called my previous employer [and asked them] to take me back to work. He kept telling me to wait for a vacancy, but then I found that he recruited three of his relatives even though I was more qualified to fill the position,” she said.

“I filed many applications in both private and public establishments in and out of Hatta. I have around 12 years of experience in customer services, data entry and as a secretary, but I don’t have a mediator to smooth the recruiting process as most companies require.”

“I don’t mind getting Dh5,000 as a salary. We have many financial commitments and my husband’s salary is not enough so I need to work,” she said.

Talal Al Hammadi, a 31-year-old Emirati job seeker from Khor Fakkan, said that he suffers from depression and feels helpless without a job.

“I have been looking for a job since 2005 after finishing high school, but they all asked for experience and I didn’t have any,” said Mr Al Hammadi.

“After losing hope in 2014, I was diagnosed with depression and that weakened my chances of having a job.”

He took courses to strengthen his computer, language and communication skills in order to find a job.

“When I first started looking for a job I was offered low salaries with long working hours, but I refused, hoping to find a better opportunity and I’m still looking,” he said.

Maryam Al Mismari, a 26-year-old Emirati mother of one, said she has been looking for a job since 2014 after she graduated from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Fujairah.

"I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering in 2014 and am still looking for a job. At first I was looking for something that matches my qualifications and degree, but no one contacted me for an interview," said Ms Al Mismari.

"After that, I started to apply for any position as I didn't want to stay at home. I was looking to build a career path so I didn't mind working as a receptionist or a secretary, but even those positions were hard to find," she said.

Over the past three years, Ms Al Mismari has been invited for only one interview and did not receive an offer.

She said: "I submitted applications to governmental entities, banks and private companies, but without luck. I also visited every single job fair and continuously followed up on all the applications that I submitted, but they keep telling me they will call me when a vacancy opens, and they never have."

Omaira Farooq Al Olama, managing director at ALF Administration, which trains UAE nationals with work skills and expertise, said she encourages most of her students to start looking at fields in IT and journalism, as there are few nationals working in these areas.

“It's a mindset change. In the past families just wanted doctors, engineers, bankers or lawyers and looked at all other majors such as psychology, communication, art, computer graphics as not important; however, we are in a digital and creative age and we need to adapt if we want to be in line with the rest of the world.”

She faced a lack of employment dilemma herself when she returned to the UAE after she graduated with a master’s degree.

“I couldn’t find a job because I was over qualified. But I had two choices: work in a lower level job or complain and be jobless.”

She decided to follow something her late grandfather once told her – " if people don't recognize your merits straight away, work and show them just how capable you are."

“It's this mindset that I teach my students today. You have to start from scratch and not feel that it's beneath you. You are broadening your horizons.”

*Additional reporting by Haneen Dajani

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