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22 July, 2006

Secretarial fiasco

There's only one way to describe the latest episode in the proposed emiratisation of secretaries, an embarrassing climbdown. After ruling that all expat secretaries - public and private sector - would be sacked and replaced with locals, and that expat secretaries would not be allowed get around this by changing job titles, we then learnt that probably only half of foreign secretaries would be replaced. Then we learnt that it wouldn't apply to small businesses. And now we learn that expat secretaries will be able to stay on under new job titles.

How did such an appalling mess come about? The usual stunning fusion of arrogance and ignorance. First someone figures out that: "most unemployed UAE nationals were secondary school graduates between the ages of 15 and 24". Next it's probably presumed that secretarial positions are low-skilled (because most of them are low-paid: "Indian lady on husband's/father's visa" being the usual job ad) so would therefore suit school leavers. Then it's presumed that all unemployed people actually want to work (in any country, there are plenty of dole bludgers far happier to sit on their arses if generous welfare is available). Finally it's presumed that unemployed UAE nationals actually want sectretarial positions.

Why would anyone with some degree of choice whether they work or not (given free health, free education, generous welfare) take on a job with long hours and a heavy workload for as little as Dh2,000 a month? There's a vast difference between a poor Indian lady strugging to pay her rent and medical bills and school fees, and a local person who is never going to be allowed to starve. Who can blame emiratis for wanting more lucrative and glamourous careers?

Then let's take a look at the upper end of the secretarial scale: the executive PAs and so on. These positions are much more highly paid: but they demand an equally higher skillset. The problem is that most emiratis with first rate English skills, excellent literacy, computing and organisational skills are already in huge demand in the public and private sector. There aren't loads of them floating around wanting to fetch and carry for some CEO.

So here's a clue to Tanmia and the Labour ministry. If you want to emiratise - and even us expats think it's a very commendable and necessary thing - then do it sensibly and gradually. If you must impose quotas, have a percentage system so young emiratis entering the workforce can learn the ropes from more experienced expats. Eventually emiratis will take over. And they will be competent, skilled and appreciated. But trying to instantly replace an army of 30 and 40-something highly experienced secretaries with a load of school leavers is just absurd.

Labels:

23 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Banner said...

Bingo is his namO

22 July, 2006 17:10  
Anonymous Hennessy & Ingalls said...

So here's a clue to Tanmia and the Labour Ministry. If you want to emiratise - and even us expats think it's a very commendable and necessary thing - then do it sensibly and gradually ... blah ... And they will be competent, skilled and appreciated. But trying to instantly replace an army of 30 and 40-something highly experienced secretaries with a load of school leavers is just absurd.


Well said, well written. Hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears.

22 July, 2006 17:25  
Blogger Seabee said...

And assuming a huge percentage of any national group anywhere in the world wants and is suited to one particular job is also absurd.

"We have 100,000 unemployed so they can all be HR Directors or secretaries".

There's a parallel universe where these 'officials' live, I swear. They sure don't live in the same place we do.

22 July, 2006 19:56  
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23 July, 2006 05:23  
Blogger G said...

I dont know where to post this, but this is the worst thing i have ever seen

http://trueislamickhalifah.usmanbiz.com/blogs/?p=101

23 July, 2006 07:23  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

If you want to emiratise - and even us expats think it's a very commendable and necessary thing...

This one doesn't. Nationalisation programs and quotas never work.

If there is a problem with nationals being unemployed, it is a result of government interference in the labour market preventing wages rising to a point where they become more attractive to a local than loafing at home. The answer to this problem is staring the government in the face, but throwing out a few Indians is more palatable to them than scrapping the sponsorship system and allowing foreigners the ability to change jobs whenever they like.

23 July, 2006 09:06  
Blogger Smokey Mirror said...

I'm with Tim on this one. A forced nationalisation program isn't going to work.

A gradual, indirect program is what's needed. And it's all got to do with education.

Pour money into the public schools. Modernise the curriculums. Fund internship programs through the local universities. The list is endless.

In a generation or two, you'll have hordes of young emiratis graduating from local universities looking for work.

The only direct influence they should exert is the one done in countries all over the world: preferential employment. Employers should be required, by law, to try and employ nationals (in ANY job) before seeking an expat. This has problems, sure, but it makes more sense than cutting 10,000 jobs and assuming that 10,000 locals will happily step up to them.

23 July, 2006 09:31  
Blogger Taunted said...

Did you know that Government depts were exempt from this law?

Yes they were, and Emirates aren't going to impliment it either - they are a government dept after all.

Goodness knows what would happen if all of our HR team were locals. It's bad enough as it is!!

23 July, 2006 10:19  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

The only direct influence they should exert is the one done in countries all over the world: preferential employment. Employers should be required, by law, to try and employ nationals (in ANY job) before seeking an expat.

This is correct, but alas in the UAE doomed to failure. An local will only apply for a job which is more beneficial to him than sitting on his arse at home claiming welfare (this is true of any country). The better the welfare package, the more jobs will be outside the interest of a local. The welfare package in the UAE is so good that vast swathes of the job market are outside of the interest of a local and hence must be filled solely by expats.

The answer to the problem is to dismantle the welfare state in the UAE and force the locals to go to work. Indeed, the UK could do with a dose of this medicine too. If the locals of the UAE don't want this, then they are going to have to get used to watching most of their economy run by outsiders. They may spend mountains of money and effort trying to solve this problem by other means, but nothing will change in the long term.

23 July, 2006 10:36  
Anonymous jsc said...

Emiratisation? why not call it Puppetization.

23 July, 2006 12:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blah - lets not kid ourselves! Secret's tone of writing is excellent but lets face it - she surely has to stop short of ridiculing these idiots if she's to be taken seriously... and again - lets face it- this blog IS read!

My 2p... these guys have no clue about whats going on in the real world - besides all these stupid laws always come from Abu Dhabi. I dont think folks in Dubai (and therefore emirates air, etc.) want to have anything to do with it!

Thank goodness for SH. Mo - atleast he keeps those 'UAE CAPITAL - Abu Dhabi' idiots in check!

-Babalola

23 July, 2006 16:02  
Blogger secretdubai said...

The reality is that this country needs to get its nationals into the workforce. Not just to cut down on welfare costs (these will continue increasing anway, given the population boom - free health and education are unlikely to go away for a long time) but to reduce delinquency, reliance on international expertise and the severe demographic imbalance in the labour force.

This imbalance isn't going to "tip back" in the short or even medium term, we know that, and they know that. They've fked up by giving the people too much pocketmoney for zero effort - witness the absolute debacle of the marriage fund. They've fked up by failing to constrain excess and ludicrous displays of wealth. They've also been foolish stripping UAE women who "marry out" of welfare and citizenship, when they could easily afford generous support to these women.

Their big problem is that they can't be too hard on the national population, because with no democratic outlets to express discontent, there could eventually be riots, coups and revolution.

As average become more educated and more numerous, and as they see the more meritocratic and democratic systems overseas, they will start to question: "why has Prince B got a brand new Mercedes, when I cannot afford it?" "why am I offered a medium job at Dh8,000 a month, when High-Born C gets a do-nothing executive goverment job for Dh30,000 a month?"

23 July, 2006 16:46  
Blogger omeir khan said...

Beautifully written Secretdubai, I hold the same views as you in this regard.

23 July, 2006 20:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emiratisation is top priority for UAE Government, says UAE Labour Minister

Dubai, UAE- July 23rd, 2006 (WAM) - The newly announced move to emiratise jobs of secretaries and human resource managers is aimed at increasing opportunities for UAE Nationals in the private sector, Dr. Ali Al Kaabi, UAE Labour Minister said today.

Speaking at a media briefing hosted by the Dubai Press Club, Dr. Al Kaabi said that it is not logical that 33,000 UAE Nationals remain unemployed despite the private sector generating 600,000 jobs annually.

"UAE nationals are quite capable of proving themselves in any position once they are given the right opportunities and proper training," Dr.

Al Kaabi said. "The inaccurate perceptions about the productivity levels of UAE Nationals come largely from the private sector. We invite the private sector to provide opportunities to Nationals to help them contribute to the development of the UAE economy." Dr. Al Kaabi stressed that the nationalization process is not intended to harm the interests of expatriates currently employed as secretaries and human resources managers. The enforcement of the laws, he said, will not ignore the interests of private companies and their employees.

"Countries across the world give high priority to employment of their own citizens. Governments are responsible for providing their nationals equal access to job opportunities in both public and private sectors.

Being saturated now, the UAE public sector cannot employ the 14,000 high school graduates who are unemployed. Nationalising secretarial jobs will help these graduates find jobs in the private sector".

According to Dr. Kaabi, there are 20,000 secretaries currently registered, with 9,000 of them earning salaries of AED 7,000 per month and above.

The labour minister denied that nationalization may have a negative impact on the local economy.

Commenting on issues facing expatriate workers in the UAE, Al Kaabi said that the Labour Ministry is keen to protect the interests of the workers.

The change in the working hours in the summer was an example of an action taken by the Ministry in this regard.

Dr. Khalid Al Khazraji, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, who also attended the press conference, said that perceptions of extreme hardships faced by laborers in the UAE were exaggerated and based on unverified media reports.

Dr. Al Khazraji said that the ministry enjoys excellent relations with the International Labour Organization, the international body that monitors labour conditions around the world.

He stressed that nationalization does not mean ignoring the interests of private companies or their employees. "Enforcing the laws will take into consideration the interests of private companies who can continue to employ their secretaries if they feel they will add value to the company.

Dubai, UAE- July 23rd, 2006 (WAM) - The newly announced move to emiratise jobs of secretaries and human resource managers is aimed at increasing opportunities for UAE Nationals in the private sector, Dr. Ali Al Kaabi, UAE Labour Minister said today.

Speaking at a media briefing hosted by the Dubai Press Club, Dr. Al Kaabi said that it is not logical that 33,000 UAE Nationals remain unemployed despite the private sector generating 600,000 jobs annually.

"UAE nationals are quite capable of proving themselves in any position once they are given the right opportunities and proper training," Dr.

Al Kaabi said. "The inaccurate perceptions about the productivity levels of UAE Nationals come largely from the private sector. We invite the private sector to provide opportunities to Nationals to help them contribute to the development of the UAE economy." Dr. Al Kaabi stressed that the nationalization process is not intended to harm the interests of expatriates currently employed as secretaries and human resources managers. The enforcement of the laws, he said, will not ignore the interests of private companies and their employees.

"Countries across the world give high priority to employment of their own citizens. Governments are responsible for providing their nationals equal access to job opportunities in both public and private sectors.

Being saturated now, the UAE public sector cannot employ the 14,000 high school graduates who are unemployed. Nationalising secretarial jobs will help these graduates find jobs in the private sector".

According to Dr. Kaabi, there are 20,000 secretaries currently registered, with 9,000 of them earning salaries of AED 7,000 per month and above.

The labour minister denied that nationalization may have a negative impact on the local economy.

Commenting on issues facing expatriate workers in the UAE, Al Kaabi said that the Labour Ministry is keen to protect the interests of the workers.

The change in the working hours in the summer was an example of an action taken by the Ministry in this regard.

Dr. Khalid Al Khazraji, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, who also attended the press conference, said that perceptions of extreme hardships faced by laborers in the UAE were exaggerated and based on unverified media reports.

Dr. Al Khazraji said that the ministry enjoys excellent relations with the International Labour Organization, the international body that monitors labour conditions around the world.

He stressed that nationalization does not mean ignoring the interests of private companies or their employees. "Enforcing the laws will take into consideration the interests of private companies who can continue to employ their secretaries if they feel they will add value to the company

http://www.wam.org.ae/servlet/Satellite?c=WamLocEnews&cid=1153223033277&p=1135099400124&pagename=WAM%2FWamLocEnews%2FW-T-LEN-FullNews

23 July, 2006 20:30  
Blogger Omar Barsawad said...

Absurd! And what a mess!

23 July, 2006 20:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree that this country needs to get its nationals more involved in its economy.

I am not sure the emiratisation programs is the right way to go.

Instead of building the tallest building, the biggest hotel, a theme park in the desert or whatever. This country should really focus on creating a renowed university with the best teachers availbale open to nationals at an acceptable fee...and i am not talking about some bullshit university affilitated to a funny named university in Australia or US. Paying AED 50K to 100K for some "funky" MBA is a joke, especially when you hear the names of the universities.

A bon entendeur.

24 July, 2006 00:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being in the private sector and having worked on outsourced projects for Tanmia, I know what a shower they are internally let alone what they want to portray to the young UAE nationals.

Also, I have worked closely with an executive placement company that were asked to find the odd senior director for the odd mega project. The quality of person (expat from the US or Europe) to manage and follow through a multi billion dollar project is probably worth $ 1.2m (approx) a year over a three/four year period - I know for a fact that the executive office were willing to shell out about AED 30k a month and a 3 bed villa. Yet they were willing to have UAE nationals on the team with no experience in senior positions on the $1.2mil.

Great eh!?

Btw my company has just employed our first UAE national! We only have 10 employees. Great thing is though that one of his parents is European and that he's lived there most of his life.

I give him 6 months before his peers take the piss and he leaves for a job at the ministry of wank.

24 July, 2006 01:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oopps - forgot from my last post (above), has anyone seen the Middle East Business Report on BBC World about this?

The private sector are damning and the locals they get on back them up - quality.

42 nationals booked in for interviews and 2 turn up!

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhhahahahahahahahahahahaahahahha... fini

24 July, 2006 01:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And finally...

http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Emiratisation/10054399.html

Now you just have to pay the government and you can keep all your expat secretaries. So that's the end of that then.

So as with everything here it's just a money making scheme and even the government don't care about emiritization, they just want to bleed you of more cash.

24 July, 2006 08:07  
Blogger marwan said...

I have to agree with Tim - the locals have priced themselves out of the lower end job market, while having next to no experience for the big bucks end.

How low is low end? I've worked as a secretary in the -2k- under category (which is the most common in my neck of the woods) which gives you a free bonus of untenable working hours and and a fat helping of no quality of life.

As much as I didn't like it, it was not always a case of exploitation, but that these companies could not afford more, working on razor thin margins. As a result, their incentive to hire a local is nil.

If all the secretaries are turned loose, it just means some one else in the office will get lumped with the work on top of her/his duties.

Meanwhile, locals chase an 'aspirational' lifestyle funded by the government kitty, while the majority of that hateful population squats a centimeter above the poverty line.

24 July, 2006 10:29  
Blogger BuJ said...

very well-written.. unfortunately i wrote about the same subject yesterday.. but i wasn't as polite as you SD.. you might wanna give it a browse.

Regards,

Buj

24 July, 2006 17:24  
Blogger Georgia said...

To just replace 28,000 secretaries from the pool of around 33,000 unemployed Emiratis is ridiculous. And it is insulting to suggest that secretarial work is dead easy - any boss will tell you that a good secretary is worth their weight in gold (even if they're not being paid that well.) I have friends who are legal secretaries and they have a very high level of skill and responsibility that can't just be handed over to a school leaver. I can understand the government's reasonings for Emirarisation - after all, we expats are just guests here - but there has to be better ways to encourage employers to hire Emiratis rather than just saying all HR managers and secretaries must be locals. Incentives for hiring Emiratis in any position perhaps? There has to be a culture of giving people jobs on merit. If Emiratis are just handed jobs they don't want to do, that'll only achieve resentment on all sides.

PS: To the anonymous idiot who talked about "funny named Australian universities", I assume you mean Wollongong University. Wollongong is a major Australian city and the university has a very good reputation. Do your homework before making stupid statements. Perhaps you could benefit from a course at Wollongong University - if indeed you can grow up enough to get accepted.

24 July, 2006 20:46  
Anonymous UAE Polemic said...

SD, you are being far too politically correct.

All the comments are interesting, but there seems to be a common thread that UAE nationals agree with government policy. I, for one, don't.

Comments so far talk about the problems with education, welfare, etc. The main problem is that the state remains rooted in a socialist ideology, barely paying lip service to the central tenets of free-market capitlasim that they envisage as the goal of their economic policies, in particular the idea of meritocracy.

Simply put, extend smokey mirror's idea of preferential employment to include preference for educated, trained nationals (with a good work ethic) over nationals with connections. If that happens, nationals will stop wasting time cultivating social and business networks, and start educating themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the welfare, but I'd much rather the government spent it's money and energy in creating an economy where I can do well based on my own merit.

I don't want a job offered to me simply because I am a UAE national. On the other hand, I don't want to be denied a job based on anything other than my academic and professional qualifications.

16 August, 2006 18:55  

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