Encouraging Emiratis to “try out” the private sector

I was a speaker last week at the second Emiratisation Summit, an event organised by IIR Middle East in parallel with the Tawdheef career fair in Abu Dhabi.

Usually as a follow-up of my speaking activities, I write a post or two on the conference I attended, reacting on the presentations of the speakers. Unfortunately this time, I was only able to be there a few hours, so I decided to do a bit of research instead.

I was able to find the following article at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) site from Dubai Government. Titled “Emirati unemployment at 14%”, the article condenses the presentation of Dr Othman Khoury, VP of HR at Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC) at the Summit. I found these numbers particularly interesting :

“Among 900,000 Emiratis in the UAE, only about 0.5 per cent is employed within the private sector,” Khoury said.

Waow ! I knew there was very little representation of Nationals in the private sector, but never thought it was as little as that ! Clearly I had missed out on these statistics produced at the beginning of November…

This led me to these two articles about Absher, the initiative that was recently launched in order to create jobs for 20,000 UAE Nationals in the coming years. At the end of December, the initiative launched the second phase of its strategy of increasing awareness of opportunities for UAE Nationals. The programme is looking to expand its partnerships and attract more companies so that there are more job opportunities available to Nationals.

Finally, my journey took me to this short but interesting piece at Kippreport.com. In “Easing Emiratisation”, Eva Fernandes relates ideas from a roundtable debating the recent proposal from Absher to synchronise salaries and days off between the private and government sectors. Rather than going this expensive route (and not necessarily sustainable by the private sector), a suggestion was made to ease the transition from government to private sector by offering some guarantees to the Nationals that experiment with the private sector,to get their job back in the government.

“A solution could feature an internship-styled program which allows a public sector employee to work in the private sector to gain experience. At the end of the two-year stint in the private sector, the employee will be guaranteed his job back at the public sector, or should he chose to, he could continue in his new role.”

I like this idea. It’s win-win-win, for the Emirati, the government, and the private sector.

Maybe some temporary, partial bridging of salary could be combined with this approach. And Compensation pros could definitely design attraction and retention schemes for these Nationals at the end of their “internship”, so that they would be encouraged to stay within the organisation.

Of course, it’s not all about the money. But as many claim that jobs in the government sector are dull, and that Emiratis are often bored there, but trapped by the “golden cage syndrome” and scared of the opportunity cost of moving to the private sector, this kind of initiative could be successful with UAE Nationals that have a few years of experience and who want to move to a different environment.

What do you say ?


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  1. Hi Sandrine —- maybe I’m dense but if the Emiratis aren’t “manning” the jobs in private industry then who is? Are they Arabs from other ME coutries??? Thanks.

    • Hi Jacque,

      Unless you have already been exposed to the Gulf countries (GCC is made of UAE (most famous are Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain), it is difficult to imagine. The private sector in these countries is overwhelming staffed by “expats”, who are in fact non-citizens hired on local contract, either on a permanent or on a fixed basis (often 2 or 3 years).

      The nationalities or regional origns tend to be roughly matched to the kind of jobs. For instance, labourers and construction workers tend to come from the indian subcontinent (Pakistan, Bengladesh, Nepal…). Retail and service staff are often Philippino, but in the past few years we have seen more people from Africa, as well as Chinese staff. Office workers tend to be a mix of Indians, Philippinos, Arabs from the Levant or Egypt, and Westerners.


  1. […] their job back in the government if they chose to  at the end of the period.  Also read my post on this topic, following the Tawdheef career fair in Abu Dhabi, on encouraging Emiratis to “try out” […]

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