Emiratization is a national workforce policy in the UAE that aims to increase Emirati employment in the private sector. It is part of the We the UAE 2031 strategy, which aims to double the country’s GDP from $405.6 bn to $816.7 bn in the next decade.
With a population of 10.17 million, Emiratis make up the minority at 11.48 percent, while expatriates dominate at 88.52 percent. Therefore, Emiratization serves as a strategic initiative to address this imbalance and reduce reliance on foreign labor.
In addition, it serves as a powerful tool for strengthening national identity and nurturing Emirati culture.
Historical background of Emiratization
Before the discovery of oil, the UAE’s economy relied on fishing and pearl diving. However, when the UAE struck oil in the late 1960s, it brought rapid economic growth and, subsequently, a dependence on foreign labor.
This reliance on expatriate workers created an imbalance in the workforce, limiting opportunities for Emiratis in the process.
To rectify this, the UAE government implemented Emiratization policies in the early 2000s. These policies aimed to enhance Emiratis’ participation in the workforce in the private sector.
Emiratization has evolved over the years, incorporating initiatives to incentivize private companies to hire and train Emiratis. Measures like training programs, government subsidies, and industry-specific Emirati employment quotas have been implemented.
These efforts have improved the situation, allowing Emiratis to actively contribute to the growth and development of the UAE. However, the government is accelerating this effort to achieve its target of having at least 10 percent of Emiratis in private sector companies with at least 50 employees.
Objectives of Emiratization in the UAE
- Enhancing employment opportunities for Emiratis: Emiratization increases job opportunities for Emiratis by allocating quotas.
- Reducing reliance on foreign labor: Emirati labor market balance is a key goal of Emiratization, which aims to reduce reliance on expatriate workers by prioritizing local employment.
- Enhancing workforce skills and capabilities: Through training and development programs, Emiratization aims to enhance the skills and capabilities of Emiratis, making them more competitive in the job market.
- Fostering economic growth and sustainability: Hiring UAE nationals contributes to the overall economic growth and sustainability of the UAE. It ensures that Emiratis play an active role in their country’s development and progress.
Strategies to achieve Emiratization
- Partnering with the private sector: This allows for more job opportunities by leveraging the private sector’s role in economic growth and job creation.
- Quotas and incentives: The government sets employment quotas for Emiratis in specific industries and provides incentives to companies that meet these targets.
- Training and development programs: These programs enhance the skills and competitiveness of Emirati workers, making them more marketable.
- Education and awareness campaigns: The government promotes high-skilled industries and encourages young Emiratis to participate in vocational and technical education.
- Regulations and enforcement: The government implements regulations to ensure compliance with Emiratization requirements and monitors adherence through enforcement mechanisms.
Latest policy update
The UAE Cabinet has approved a decision to increase Emiratization rates annually by 2 percent for skilled jobs in companies with 50 or more employees. The overall goal is to achieve a 10 percent increase by 2026.
Additionally, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MoHRE) announced that companies with 20 to 49 employees will now be required to meet quotas. They must hire at least one UAE citizen in 2024 and another by 2025.
Failure to comply with quotas will result in a fine of $26,000 for not employing one Emirati in 2024. Meanwhile, a $30,000 fine will be levied on companies for not employing two Emiratis by 2025. This new ruling affects privately owned companies in 14 sectors, including real estate, education, construction, and healthcare.
Moreover, MoHRE has specified that employers must hire Emiratis for skilled jobs. These skilled workers must meet specific qualifications, including the following:
- Holding a certificate higher than secondary education or its equivalent
- Having a worker’s certificate attested by a competent authority
- Earning a minimum salary of $1,089 per month
- Employment in specific occupational categories, such as:
- Legislators, business executives and managers
- Writing professionals
- Professionals in technical, scientific, and human fields
- Technicians in technical, scientific, and humanitarian fields
- Service and sales occupations
Continued commitment and support are necessary to maintain and further strengthen the UAE’s Emiratization program.
Investing in Emirati talent and actively encouraging their participation in the workforce can contribute to a sustainable growth for the UAE.
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