Khaleej Times spoke to top Emirati experts who all hailed the comprehensive Emiratisation plan that shall boost the workforce with more national talents. The shift in the labour market is expected to happen sooner than many think, they said.
Now that the UAE Cabinet – led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – has laid out a clear, straightforward plan for Emiratisation, it’s up to the country’s employers to make it happen, Emiratis have told Khaleej Times.
New regulations target to provide 20,000 job opportunities for Emiratis in sectors like civil aviation, telecommunications, banking, insurance and real estate development sectors over the next three years, with an average of 6,700 jobs annually.
Even before the plan’s announcement, several firms across the country had already been ramping up their own Emiratisation drives, said Abdulmuttalib Hashim, the Emirati managing director of TBH Consultancy.
“Interestingly, our consultancy TBH is already seeing an increased interest from employers to implement Emiratisation in a more efficient, creative way,” Hashim said.
While companies have long been ready for Emiratisation, some nationals were “surprised”.
One of them was Nabil Al Zarooni, an innovation consultant in the insurance sector who was raised in Germany and returned to the UAE in 2018.
“When I returned to the UAE, I was totally new to the country. And when I first heard about Emiratisation and the measures behind it, I was totally shocked. It’s not something I am used to and not a common practice in an international landscape.
“I also didn’t have any difficulties finding a job. I strongly believe we, Emiratis, need to be extremely grateful to our wise leadership. The proactive measures prove that Emiratisation is not just a programme. It’s about us. The people.”
For Sultan Ali Rashed Lootah, chairman, managing director and co-founder of Relam Investment, “Emiratis should not be hired just because the law says so, without checking the value that the staff can add to the organisation”.
“But I am confident that with proper training, hiring Emirati employees will add value to any organisation,” he said.
In the banking sector, “an engaging and dynamic career” awaits UAE nationals, according to expat industry experts. Dr Adnan Chilwan, group chief executive officer of Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), said: “We believe that young Emiratis should be counselled to join the private sector; particularly banking, which can provide them with an engaging and dynamic career, full of opportunities to grow and learn.”
Rola Abu Manneh, CEO of Standard Chartered UAE, expressed the same sentiment.
“Our main aim is to attract, train and retain UAE national talents who are looking to develop a career in Islamic banking,” said Manneh.
The UAE’s talent pool is poised to become extremely competitive, as the labour market will soon have a good mix of expatriates and Emiratis on board.
Sheikh Mohammed’s statement on keeping the country’s reputation as a hub for international talent was encouraging for both residents and industry experts.
“It was reassuring to (know) that as the government supports and pushes for Emiratisation, it will also make sure that the need to attract international talent is met and support will continue to be provided to the private sector,” said Abdulmuttalib Hashim, managing director of TBH Consultancy.
In a global economy, you will face a world-class labour market. Competition is good and we will rise to the challenge, said Nabil Al Zarooni, an Emirati innovation consultant for the insurance sector.
“I think one of the biggest challenges Emiratis face in the private sector is competing with global talent. And to compete with global talent, you need to upgrade.
“Once an Emirati gets the training, skills and capabilities, new government openings will usually make the more attractive offers. Retention is the logical outcome of this scenario. But even here, I am being optimistic. At the end of the day every labour market faces challenges, and not all of them can be dealt with immediately.”
The series of proactive measures introduced by the UAE to bolster Emirati employment is considered a “game-changer”, covering the most important concerns of companies when it comes to hiring local talent.
“At the moment, employers are competing for a small talent pool, but we do anticipate a small spike in salaries expected or offered in the short term, especially with companies expected to hire more Emiratis,” said Hashim.
“In the long-term, we believe that by increasing the number of employable Emiratis entering the market, nationals will become more competitive.”
Esam Al Mazroei, vice-chairman of Bahri and Mazroei Group, said: “We trained many Emiratis and young engineers in the past, and I truly believe that this programme will encourage many other companies to do the same. The training fund will accelerate the induction of Emiratis into the workplace.”
The strategy is widely welcomed in the insurance industry, another executive said, although awareness drives are needed to encourage Emiratis to join the sector.
“We need to raise awareness among Emiratis about the importance of the insurance sector and its role in supporting economic growth,” said Abdulla Al Nuaimi, executive vice-president for shared services, Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company (Adnic).