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Could Learning Arabic Boost Your UAE Job Prospects?

Could Learning Arabic Boost Your UAE Job Prospects?

Knowledge of Arabic can provide job seekers with flexibility in the UAE’s competitive market but it will not trump skill and experience, experts say.

Bilingual proficiency or ‘Arabic-speaking required’ are terms that are increasingly being spotted in job adverts in the UAE. This could be a cause for concern for a large number of expats who have limited or no Arabic proficiency.

“Knowledge of Arabic along with English tops the list of skills most coveted by employers in the UAE,” said Suhail Masri, VP, sales at Bayt.com.

According to a Bayt.com survey, around 51 per cent of UAE employers prefer candidates with good communication skills in both English and Arabic.

Masri said that this trend also applies across the MENA region since 50 per cent of employers in the region found the ability to communicate in both English and Arabic desirable.

“This points to the fact that having a knowledge of Arabic is important to securing a job; bilingual candidates can enter the job market more easily and can change jobs more easily than non-lingual persons as revealed in several national public opinion surveys,” he said.

Guy Rickett, CEO of recruitment consultancy Cazar, says: “Most of the time, employers in the UAE are more focused on finding candidates with the right functional skill set and experience. However, given the choice of two candidates of equal calibre, the one who speaks Arabic would have a definite advantage.”

The requirement of bilingualism would also majorly depend on the profession, recruitment experts said.

“Among the range of vacancies listed in the UAE on Bayt.com, proficiency in Arabic and English features as a “requirement” among job roles ranging from editors to technicians,” said Masri.

“A company hiring an editor for an English-language publication may not need to hire a professional who is also fluent in Arabic, while an organisation that deals with the government might need to.”

Rickett said that knowledge of Arabic is important in sectors like banking and government where communication in Arabic is essential. But speaking Arabic is not compulsory for other skill-heavy industries, he noted.

“For example, in the construction sector, where there is a big need for very specialised engineers and project managers, companies will prioritise experience and technical skills.”

With Dubai’s successful bid for Expo 2020, the country is poised to create a large number of jobs in the years leading up to the event.

According to official estimates, around 277,000 jobs will be created by 2020, with around 40 per cent of them in travel and tourism. Other related sectors such as construction and real estate are also expected to benefit from Expo, leading to a rise in hiring activity.

“It would be safe to predict bilingual candidates will be in demand as they are currently. However, as the UAE prepares itself for an increasingly globalised stage for World Expo 2020 being multi-lingual will be definitely an advantage for candidates,” said Masri.

But Rickett said that the ability to speak Arabic will not majorly impact hiring for the Expo boom.

“It is of course a valuable asset to speak Arabic, but for an event as international as the Expo, we don’t foresee it to be a key requirement for most positions,” he said.

“There will be an increase of job opportunities and the competition for talent will increase, so bilingualism may not be the main priority when looking for candidates. The principal challenge will be to identify and attract the most qualified ones wherever they are.”

Masri also said that the UAE’s workplaces are multi-cultural which drives down the need to hire Arabic-speaking candidates to an extent.

“The UAE is the regional base for many international organisations, which deal with not only the Arab world, but with many different countries,” he said.

“That means that while Arabic proficiency might be a perk, the UAE is too rich and international a market for that to be an issue.”

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