The benefits of welcoming more Emiratis into the workforce

At 50, the UAE is a young country with several global achievements, which can be attributed to strategic leadership and a strong commitment to socio-economic development. As the UAE looks forward to the next 50 years of growth and development, one of the top priorities on the national agenda is to build human capital.

The ambition of the United Arab Emirates is to be among the top three countries in the world in terms of attracting talent, as well as in terms of the availability of highly qualified employees, objectives which can be achieved both by a reflection disruptive and a series of regulatory measures.

The UAE strategy for attracting and retaining talent, a recent overhaul of labor laws, the move to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, new visa rules and some of the leave policies the most generous parents in the world are part of the measures and programs implemented to attract the best talent to the country.

Likewise, the promotion of national talent is a priority. Recognizing the crucial role that the citizens of the United Arab Emirates play in building a resilient and fast-growing economy, the government has stepped up emirateization efforts alongside the above initiatives. In fact, emiratization will be key to achieving the UAE’s ambition to be the premier destination to live, work and invest.

A strategy to nurture and grow national talent should fuel new Indigenous perspectives and interests, with more inclusive growth for organizations and society as a whole. This will help create a gender-diverse workforce as more Emirati women participate and gain seniority. And a diversity of ethnicities, experiences and ideas ultimately contributes to building great organizations.

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The UAE’s forward-looking strategy to strengthen human resources is underpinned by a strong emirates program. These include coherent, high-impact government initiatives and an overall target of 10% emiratization in the private sector by 2025 in skilled and knowledge-based roles (the current requirement being 2% for commercial organizations).

“Nafis”, launched in September 2021, is a driving initiative for emirates in the private sector. Part of the UAE’s “Projects of 50”, it has an ambitious target of creating 75,000 private sector jobs by 2025. Nafis seeks to support Emirati nationals entering the job market or developing their careers more general, and even allows organizations to facilitate employment opportunities and increase the number of UAE nationals employed.

Based on these initiatives, several large local private sector companies have improved local hiring processes at entry and management levels and created Emirati training programs for capacity building. For example, the Dubai Islamic Bank reported a 100% increase in the number of appointments of Emirati employees at branch management level. Leading retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim will recruit 3,000 Emirati employees over the next five years to support the Nafis initiative. Nationals of the United Arab Emirates occupy 42% of the positions in the public company Emirates Global Aluminium.

Alia Obaid, 8, joins men in performing the traditional Emirati dance at the Al Dhafra festival in Abu Dhabi on January 13.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Emiratization programs stemming from public-private partnerships have launched apprenticeship programs to train young people, provided internship and secondment opportunities for UAE nationals, and significantly increased the number of Emiratis of both genders in the senior executives.

One of the most successful emirates initiatives has been the Pre-Audit Training Program (PAQT), designed and run by the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy in alliance with the Abu Dhabi Human Resource Authority, the Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority and private sector partners, including KPMG Bas-Golfe.

Since 2019, PAQT has provided over 90 UAE nationals with essential audit knowledge and training. Its graduates have successfully found valuable roles in the financial sector and support the government’s economic diversification agenda and greater representation of UAE talent in the private sector.

Emiratization is more than just a tick box. The private sector must ensure that its emirate initiatives have a genuine focus on capacity transfer and capacity building to ensure growth in a dynamic business environment.

It is a synergistic partnership. Emiratization helps multinational organizations to become true global and local heroes. At KPMG, for example, our Emirati talent not only benefits from global exposure and the opportunity to work on international assignments and clients, but the firm also gains a competitive edge through their cultural knowledge, deep engagement to national causes and the nuanced perspectives of local markets.

As the UAE builds infrastructure to attract talent from around the world, organizations operating in the country would do well to prioritize the attraction and development of Emirati talent, which will fuel the country’s future growth.

Posted: February 11, 2022, 9:00 AM