What stops Emiratis from seeking private sector jobs

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Emirati talent submit applications during the Careers UAE exhibition in Dubai, March 28, 2010. Photo by Dennis B. Mallari

A global human resources consultancy conducts survey on employment priorities among Emiratis. As many as 462 UAE national university students, 52 employers and 318 UAE nationals participated in the survey

A new survey from global human resources consultancy Mercer has shed light on employment priorities among Emiratis.

The survey, for example, found “an attraction gap”, with young Emiratis looking to join an organisation interested in pay and benefits, company reputation, the opportunity for learning and even the location of the job over some of the more traditional approaches favoured by HR professionals.

As many as 462 UAE national university students, 52 employers and 318 UAE employees participated in the survey.

“We were driven by the need to understand how the thinking behind Emiratisation and the activity in the Emirati workforce has evolved over the past decade,” said Mercer survey project leader and spokesman Saqr Ahmed Al Maazmi.

“While the bulk of the current Emirati workforce is still in the public sector, we need to know what the private sector can do to attract and keep Emirati talent.”

“Furthermore, the findings suggest that Emiratis have different preferences when they are looking to join an organisation or wanting to leave.”

Additionally, the study found a “qualifications gap” beginning to emerge, as more women with bachelor degrees seek to join the workforce.

“The survey results revealed a qualification gap between men and women – with 46 per cent of all women students having completed a bachelor-level degree or above as opposed to only 31 per cent of all male students doing the same,” Al Maazmi said.

“We found the same results among men and women already employed, meaning that the qualification gap is set to widen – putting more pressure on employers and HR departments as more women with more qualifications enter the workforce.”

Additionally, the study uncovered retention issues, as employers are seen to be offering a value proposition that is not fully appreciated or wanted by employees, as well as a “loyalty gap” with 6 in 10 UAE nationals say they plan to swap jobs and companies within the next five years.

The study also found that men and women in the UAE are generally taking different career paths.

Most Emirati men pursued careers in engineering and law, while women favoured media and education. Business administration was the single most prevalent course of study among both genders.

Notably, among the more than 400 students polled, none were studying nursing, food and agriculture, physical education, languages or specialist medical areas including dentistry and pharmacy, which may mean that employers in these fields trying to attract UAE nationals.

Tracking Emiratisation

Of the employers, 46 per cent said that were on track with Emiratisation targets and 56 per cent noted that they had specific policies or programmes in place on Emiratisation.

However, 25 per cent of employers responded that Emiratisation policies do not apply to them, suggesting that no targets have been set in certain sectors, or that there are not enough qualified Emiratis to take on roles.

Furthermore, almost half of employers noted that Emiratis make up less than 10 per cent of their company’s total workforce.

“The attraction and retention of UAE nationals is the top priority of nearly every company we surveyed. From the perspective of UAE nationals seeking employment, competitive pay, benefits, learning and development, and career progression are what drives their decision to stay with an employer or leave,” said Tom O’Byrne, Head of Market Development at Mercer Middle East.

“This is extremely important for employers when building their Emiratisation programmes to attract and retain top talent.”

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