The UAE government is struggling to encourage more Emiratis to work in the private sector. But they will first have to change the educational and labor conditions in the country, say analysts. Shifa Salem, an Emirati pursuing her Masters in Educational Leadership at Zayed University, is extremely ambitious, has high aspirations, and wants to develop her professional career. But when asked if she would work in the public sector or the private sector, her response is immediate. “The public sector,” she says, arguing that working for the government offers better pay and job security. But what if a private sector role is more tailored to Salem’s qualifications, and will give her a chance to achieve her dreams better? “
If I am stable in my financial status, and I find something that will really develop my career path in the private sector, then I might go for it,” she says. Salem’s opinion, mirrored by many other young Emiratis like her, is one of the reasons that the government’s emiratization program has still not significantly boosted the number of UAE nationals entering the private sector. According to recent figures, 80 percent of the UAE nationals work in public sector. The reasons for this are obvious: the salaries are better (the UAE cabinet recently granted a 70 percent pay rise for nationals working in the federal government), the hours are usually shorter, and the jobs are secure.
An estimated 12 percent of the Emiratis are unemployed, according to the International Council on Security and Development. A primary reason for this is that UAE nationals tend to pursue employment in the public sector, rather than the more diverse private sector. “They know that they will have a chance in the public sector,” says Salem. “I think they have hope, and they are given hope. I think that as an Emirati, the message that I get is that there is a space for me in the governmental sector.” Salem points out that Emiratis who are choosy about finding a particular kind of job could face a long search – but those who broaden their criteria have many jobs to choose from.
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