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14 November, 2005

Workforce wisdom

Some wise words from Sheikh Mohammed about getting UAE nationals into the private sector. One problem has been that much of the private sector stereotypes most locals as lazy and work-shy, and only prepared to work a few hours a day. Government organisations haven't helped by continually refuting these claims - when clearly in any population there are lazy people, especially in a population used to generous welfare - making the private sector even more suspicious and intolerant of Emiratis in general.

Sheikh Mo takes the middle road, admitting the focus should only be on the keen and willing:

"We do not want lazy nationals who do not want to work, but we want those who are ready to learn, to work and achieve their best to be attractive to the private sector."

Another controversial issue has been quotas: forcing the private sector to employ a certain percentage of locals or face fines/licence loss. As with any quota, it's a disincentive for a local person to get properly trained if he or she can get a job by dint of ethnicity rather than talent - long term, it prevents the UAE workforce from "catching up" with the standards and skill levels of international workers.

Once again, Sheikh Mo wisely emphasises the need to train locals properly so private companies will be happy and willing to employ them:

"He said the programme will not force the private sector to employ nationals. On the contrary, nationals will be trained well and the private sector will look for nationals."

One more step that will be needed to properly reassure the private sector will be the right, codified in employment law, to sack any person - Emirati or expat - if they underperform. Currently, many private-sector, expat employers fear that once they hire a local they will be "stuck" with them if they turn out to be unsuitable, fearing wasta loss or expensive litigation.

When both sides are properly protected - with a fair charter of rights for both employers and employees, regardless of nationality - things will move forward.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure that there may be quite a few young and keen nationals who are fit and ready to dip their toes into the private sector world. But unfortunately, the example set by many senior nationals (who have the good fortune of being hired just by being a 'national' but possess neither the skill nor the appropriate attitude) will certainly cloud the judgement of these new young 'uns.

Private Sector employees, whether they are expats or nationals (recent grads or not) should be expected to understand that in exchange for the chance to be part of the private sector, the labor force has to be extremely capable and competitive.

SD - you are right, performance evaluations become key. Private sector rules to hire and fire based on competancy must be maintained and equally fair.

14 November, 2005 19:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the UAE government needs to be very cautious and wait a little bit more before fully rolling out the "emiratization" process effective.
I just saw a recent raw statistics of current level of education among 1-3rd year university students; it turned out majority are failing in their freshmen year.
What a slap into the face of "young and keen nationals who are fit and ready to dip their toes" into the private sector.

14 November, 2005 19:40  
Blogger _sublime_ said...

They should revamp the government education system first to make it more transparent, rigorous and achievement oriented (i.e. start sacking the egyptians from the top down!!).

If they can possibly reform the education sector then hopefully it won't continue to be the case that the privately/foreign educated locals are so far ahead of their locally educated brethren in terms of work ethics/problem solving skills/management abilities.

Then they wouldn't have to worry so much about emiratization/quotas. If further measures are neccessary then they could examine reducing certain benefits to the lazy ones/underschievers while rewarding the high achievers.

I don't think it's quite fair to blame local people for being lazy at this point in time; the failings are those of the current educational system which represents an educational environment which is out of date, bureaucratic and rewards mediocrity.

14 November, 2005 21:30  
Blogger _sublime_ said...

Hm, furthermore, why not heavily subsidise locals to pursue careers in the education industry so that locals can start teaching locals? Perhaps part of the problem is too many half hearted foreign teachers out here to make a quick buck.

And why not arrange special lectures form the most successful local businessmen/entrepreneurs so that young locals can interact with role models?

I could go on and on...sorry to hijack the subject so early but I'm certain that education is the key here.

14 November, 2005 21:38  
Blogger algergawi said...

sublime, I largely agree with you. Education is the issue here. Sheikh Mohammed, an ambitious and forward looking royalty is right in his initiative. But the issue in question, a much belated one to say the least, is education. When speaking of education we are addressing it at a federally level since education is federally regulated. I am of this opinion because what locals lack is not intelligence or professionalism but rather the building block skills that would put them on par with other graduates from anywhere else in the world. They may eventually be discouraged due to their lack of skills (english language, IT, etc) and reside to lazy jobs, but while one must develop him/herself when at a disadvantage in a general sense one must recognize the failure of the system. I just wish this over due issue would be addressed. if that would happen, then the private sector, save emiritisation quotas, will rarely feel the need to fire locals.

15 November, 2005 04:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They do not need training, what for, anyone can sit on the phone for hours and chat, then sleep, and spend evenings doing shisha, (Grape Flavour please!~)

Employment of locals is like equal rights employments in the States, only here it s the ones who already have all the advantages who are favoured. I paid for my schooling, show me a local who has.

15 November, 2005 08:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that education is the underlying issue, but that only works in the long run. Can the UAE really afford to wait till the current education system has been overhauled, and the new class of students have graduated in about 18 years from now?

If only government education system is addressed, then we are going to have to wait a long time to see a change. If only current education of nationals is addressed, then we will not see the keen young nationals live out their potential when they finally enter the private sector.

I'm not saying not to address the government education system - no, in fact it should be a top priority simultaneous to efforts that are taken to ensure that the current working Emirati generation be educated about the privelege, not the right, of working in the private sector. So the results that we see will be for the now and the tomorrow.

15 November, 2005 09:32  
Blogger 1Desi said...

Sorry to deviate from the thread here SD but I gotta ask (cause i know a lotta people read this)...

Anyone know what the soundtrack is to that Ford Mustang advert on MBC2?

I just gotta know... sorry again SD!!

15 November, 2005 10:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes Locals are lazy. this is only becuse they ar their parents have not had to work for anything in their life. Government schools are free. Locals only have to pay a certain amount of their total phone and electricity bills. They can make ample money opening companies and selling visas to immigrants from mostly South asian countries who are desperate to stay in UAE for the sake of their families.

A local boy gets his drivers licence his father buys him a Lumina or a Civic or an Accord.Where as most expat parents dont have enough to buy their son a second hand car worth 15k.

An asian boys grows up with a mission in his mind which is basically to work as hard as possible so he could get a better job and not struggle like his parents, on the otherhand most Local boys who are accustomed to the finer thing in life only dream of getting a high paid job anywjere, a gerat car and then eventually be married into the richest family possible.

these things tend to make locals lazy . Not expat teachers who are looking to make a quick buck.

but yes i agree the education standard here is terribly sub standard

15 November, 2005 13:20  
Blogger moryarti said...

1desi .. if you know anyone in Team Y&R (ford's agency); they should be able to help you out

15 November, 2005 14:34  
Blogger algergawi said...

its quite fascinating how so many expats make judgments about the locals, yet so few actually try to approach them and understand the culture. the problem with the world today is the lack of grey. everyone is too sure their right and everyone else is wrong. lets celebrate the peak of our civilization now shall we?

15 November, 2005 18:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"An asian boys grows up with a mission in his mind which is basically to work as hard as possible so he could get a better job and not struggle like his parents, on the otherhand most Local boys who are accustomed to the finer thing in life only dream of getting a high paid job anywjere, a gerat car and then eventually be married into the richest family possible."

I encounter some of these people and because they feel their wealth is quite secure, they are rather easy going. The strict class system makes them feel that they are forever on top of other people regardless of their work ethics. This is even true in the West. Those with "trust funds" are greatly worshiped- the ones with nice daddies are in "lifestyle job" which money is no concern since the pay is so low. Many are large stockholders and have no interest in working for their companies but insterested in hiring some skilled workers who would bring them more. These people`s attitude is quite discouraging for others who want to make earnest living. Ditto for men and women who only dream of marrying well for quick bucks. In order to create more competitive and healthy society, one needs to make a true revolution in one`s mindset. In order to be the Boss, one should set the standard. One of my bosses used to come to office earlier than everyone else. He was very much admired, though very hard to follow.

16 November, 2005 06:41  
Blogger Mubeena Mohammed said...

Nationals do not have to work to survive. The downside of having all the wealth in the world is that it may numb potential for the passion to learn and grow.

I've always believed that UAE locals need to be integrated in work life in the form of internships right from the start. I have never met even one young intern from a company. I personally attribute my career growth and focus to my own internships while I was studying at the same time.

A link needs to be established between getting what they want (eg. a college degree) on condition that there has been a positive contribution and growth in terms of work experience. A great effort must be put into place where local students are put into internships as part of their college education.

16 November, 2005 09:42  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

So state handouts reduce the incentive to work, leaving a portion of the population bone idle and dependent on others? Welcome to the UAE or the UK, ora dozen other countries.

16 November, 2005 11:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My company takes interns from both Dubai Mens & Womens colleges. We've had lazy ones, keen ones, fat ones, thin ones, tall ones, short ones, clever ones and thick ones.

It's a grand mix of all types and I do think that the generation of teenagers coming through now will hace a little more about them than the last. I judge this based on the level of customer service & communication ability I get from any of the government offices or local banks..

16 November, 2005 12:51  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Mubeena - I agree with you 100% about internships. They had three major benefits for me:

1. I found out exactly what job/industry sector I wanted to work in.

2. I found out what industry sectors I really didn't like at all - this was amazingly valuable, it helped me target my search and not waste my time or potential employers by signing up for a job I would hate.

3. It actually got me my first job, indirectly. The guy running the first company I worked for spotted that I had done work experience at his previous company, which sparked his notice enough to give me an interview.

A fourth benefit for many is finding out what skills they need to learn to enter that industry - for me this wasn't so much the case, because I was already on a vocational course.

16 November, 2005 13:58  
Blogger sandsOfTime said...

I have three friends, all nationals, and all graduates of American Ivy League universities. All work overseas right now. Why? Because no company would take them here: "I am sorry you don't have enough experience", "You are over qualified", "You are not from the right family" Yes, I have even experienced one of these :-( All of these were private sector companies, a couple are multinationals. One now works in the U.S. for a computer company, another works in Europe and does research in genetics, the third is an engineer working for an aerospace company in the U.S. All three are some of the best and the brightest this country had to offer and they spent almost six months looking for jobs before giving up and deciding to try their luck abroad.

16 November, 2005 14:35  
Blogger _sublime_ said...


It troubles me very much to hear that the best and brightest locals might need to leave to achieve. The last thing the UAE needs is a brain drain of the most capable of its own citizens!

Goes to show the actual complexity of the situation as well as the ignorance of some of the folks here who like to stereotype all locals as being lazy (although they probably haven't experienced much more of the UAE than the Irish Village, all of the shopping malls, the Madinat and perhaps a trip to a wadi once upon a time).

16 November, 2005 21:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

25% pay rise for nationals in the public sector, hardly encourages nationals to work in the private sector. This on top of 75% pensions after 15 years service, longer holidays and work that basically involves telling people to go over there somewhere to get what they want (image: man waving hand dismissively). Emiratisation, pah, you need a government with a common agenda before that can happen.

20 November, 2005 22:38  

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