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Where Next For Emiratisation?

Where Next For Emiratisation?

The issue is receiving greater focus following Dubai’s successful Expo 2020 bid, writes Bruce Dauphin, English Language and Communication trainer at International House Dubai.

Will the push toward Emiratisation see new urgency now that Dubai has won its bid to host the 2020 World Expo? No doubt the Expo will lead to more job creation, which could also lead to more private sector opportunities for Emiratis entering the workforce. The operative term is “could” as it requires conscious effort by the key stakeholders – government, private industry and the job seekers themselves – to utilise the opportunities afforded by the Expo. As a starting point, it might help to examine the advantages of Emiratisation, impediments to the same and how to overcome these impediments.

Advantages of Emiratisation

First and foremost, one should keep in mind who the key stakeholders are when considering the advantages of Emiratisation. As for the Emirati job seeker, one benefit of Emiratisation is more choice. While historically the preference of Emirati job seekers has been for positions offered in government and semi-government entities, the private sector offers a broader range of career options which might better match up to prospective workers’ interests and skills.

For government, one obvious benefit of Emiratisation would be to the treasury, whereby the cost of job creation and training might be shared with the private sector. Additionally, some of the government’s expenditures could be used more effectively to support training programs where Emirati job seekers learn skills and work habits alongside private sector workers. As a trainer at a provider which has hosted National Development programs, I have seen Emirati job seekers leave with the language, technical and managerial skills they need to perform well in the private sector – skills which may have been harder to develop had they gone straight into government or semi-government positions.

As for the private sector, Emiratisation offers the ability to connect and interact with government and local enterprises in a manner which is possible only when having Emiratis on board. Put less discreetly, one might argue that the Emirati employee speaks the local language, knows the culture, often has good connections and simply knows how to get around within Emirati society in a way that others in the private sector might not be able to. The more Emirati employees a private sector organisation has on its team, the more likely it is to prosper in the local environment.

Impediments to Emiratisation

Despite the advantages discussed above, one cannot discount the difficulties one might face in trying to implement an effective Emiratisation program. One may have to contend with different learning and work styles, differences in workplace expectations and other issues related to culture. That said, none of these challenges ought be considered unique to Emiratisation. Challenges like these are likely to have already arisen and been dealt with within the private sector, where carrying out business in a multicultural context has always been the norm. Indeed, what distinguishes the private sector from the public sector is that it has always had to enable its workers to adapt to and remain effective within a multicultural environment. What has often been missing, however, from the mix has been a visible or impactful Emirati presence.

Still, managing expectations remains a challenge for the private sector in the recruitment and hiring or Emirati workers. Differing expectations about pay and benefits between expatriate and Emirati workers is often cited as a significant point of contention. One must question, however, what the true reasons are for variation in pay and benefits between one worker and another. Is it simply a question of the worker’s passport? Is it not also a question of where one attained his/her qualifications? Are there prejudicial assumptions about how hard the new worker will perform? All of these factors and biases may play a role in determining remuneration packages – whether fairly or not. This tension over pay and benefits, however, has long existed within the private sector regardless of Emiratisation. It represents a problem that needs to be addressed in any case and should not be raised as an argument against Emiratisation.

Emiratisation can work

Yes, it can work just as multiculturalism has already proven to work for private industry within the UAE. Emiratisation can be seen as a way of adding yet one more component to the mix of elements which make the Emirates stand out among nations as a society where the peoples of the world can come together and achieve great things. This brings to mind one of the chief goals of Expo 2020, which is to advance the notion of connecting people, creating the future. Emiratisation, in short, exemplifies this spirit.

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