Capping expats won't help UAE locals

Young Emiratis

Despite recent worries that UAE jobs are being dominated by foreign workers, experts say that capping these expats will not necessarily aid the cause of locals.

Earlier this week a meeting was held to discuss plans for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationalisation where the subject of private sector jobs, and employment in general, was covered. In Qatar and the UAE less than one percent of private sector employees are national citizens, that figure stretching to 10 percent in Oman and Saudi Arabia, and 20 percent in Bahrain.

Back in 2007 the GCC proposed that some expats should be limited to six-year work permits, however it was thought that such a move could hinder the UAE economy. At the latest meeting experts suggest that to get more Emiratis into employment attitudes need to be adjusted and the government needs to lend more assistance.

Some feel that the problem lies with private companies that often choose expats over the natives, Fahad al-Hassawi a senior employee at UAE telecoms giant Du said: “I think there is a lot of work to be done which is not yet done in terms of the basics of nationalisation first, companies need to put this in place and if we reach nowhere, and I doubt that, then maybe more extreme measures can be looked at. You do not want to force nationalisation.” Within Du one in three management roles are taken by Emiratis.

Whilst the number of Emiratis in telecoms, finance and banking positions is slowly growing there are other sectors such as hospitality and services that have incredibly low numbers and Kanchan Ghoshal of consultancy firm KPMG said that the problem doesn’t lie with expats and more with general outlook: “nationalisation has to go to the next level, which means people responsible for nationalisation taking more responsibility to address needs rather than putting in caps”.