Emiratis Happiest in Private Sector

A recent survey seeks to dispel stereotypes about satisfaction levels of the UAE national workforce.

A new study conducted by Wollongong University and Abu Dhabi University measured the levels of commitment between male and female employees in the national workforce. Factors influencing the levels of engagement of managers and subordinates in the semi-public, public and private sector were also assessed.

The survey comprised 272 national employees, including government banks, utility services, manufacturing and retail companies.

The results showed that employees in all three sectors proved to have a clear idea about the nature of their job, their organisation, and what their organisations expected from them. In turn, employees generally believed that their organisations also recognised the outcome of their work, thereby demonstrating an apparent relationship between job gratification and company recognition.

The support rate in all three sectors was highest in response to the statements that focused on individual and collective purpose: “I know why my organisation is there,” and “I know what is expected of me in my job.” These two statements consistently scored ninety-plus per cent across all three sectors.

The most positive feedback came from the private sector, indicating a high level of work satisfaction. Only one statement in both male and female responses received weak support.  The lowest rating by males was 66 per cent for the statement: “In the last five working days I have received recognition for doing good work”. Private sector female respondents’ lowest rating was 69 per cent in reply to, “I have a family and friend environment that supports me in my work.”

In the other two sectors, the public and semi-government, there was generally weak support for a number of statements. These included: “In the last five working days I have received recognition for doing good work,” and “I have opportunities to discuss our progress as an organisation.”

On the other hand, while only 0.3 per cent of Emiratis are employed in the private sector, it is evident that these Emiratis generally enjoyed the highest level of work satisfaction. This is an unexpected outcome, since the public’s and government’s obvious assumption has been that if only a small percentage of Emiratis work in the private sector, the reason for it must be a dislike of its organisational characteristics, such as lower pay and less leave.

However, this research has opened the door to another perspective: that there is a section of the Emirati workforce, albeit small, who thrive on responsibility, challenge and autonomy under the guidance of managers whose style is supportive rather than authoritative.

Since one of Emiratisation’s principal aims is to spread the workforce more evenly across all three sectors instead of having an over-filled public sector, researchers and management need to better understand how more Emiratis might be encouraged to show enthusiasm for the private sector.

The small sample used in this survey cannot lead to universal generalisation, but the surveyed Emiratis seem to find a favourable environment in the private sector.