UAE reports that 79,000 Emiratis now working in private sector

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) announced that around 79,000 UAE nationals were now working in the UAE private sector on 7 July, which was the last day for companies with 50 employees or more to achieve their 1% semi-annual Emiratisation targets for skilled jobs.

This number represented the highest-ever rate of Emiratisation recorded in the UAE private sector, with a 57% increase over the end of 2022 figure when 50,228 UAE nationals were recorded as employed in the private sector. Nearly 17,000 private sector companies now employ UAE citizens.

Emiratisation targets for the second half of 2023 require private sector companies with 50 or more employees to achieve a further 1% growth in the number of UAE citizens working in skilled jobs among their staff, which will mean an overall growth of 2% by the end of the year.

The Emiratisation programme was first launched by the UAE government in 1998 to address the low level of participation of Emiratis in the private sector. It established a quota system to ensure that companies hire a minimum percentage of Emirati nationals relative to the total number of employees.

The programme has been successful in addressing Emirati employment within the public sector but Emirati participation in the private sector was still lagging. The programme has therefore been expanded and is a key priority for the UAE government.

The initial focus of the programme was on the banking and finance industries, but it has been extended to target other sectors, including healthcare, education, aviation, hospitality and transportation. The government has also introduced various incentives to encourage private sector companies to hire Emiratis. These range from financial grants and tax exemptions to priorities in government tenders and subsidies for training and development programmes to better equip Emirati nationals.

The current quota obligations for companies under the UAE’s Emiratisation programme apply to all UAE mainland registered companies, but exclude companies based in free zones, and took effect from 1 January 2023.

All private sector companies with 50 or more employees must increase the number of Emirati nationals under their employment by 2% per year with the aim of ensuring that by 2026, the private sector workforce will be comprised of at least 10% UAE nationals. This quota does not include the banking and insurance sectors, which remain at 4% and 5% respectively.

The quotas are as follows:

  • 0 to 50 skilled workers – 1 Emirati national
  • 51 to 100 skilled employees – 2 Emirati nationals
  • 101 to 150 skilled employees – 3 Emirati national
  • 151 skilled employees or more – 1 Emirati national for every 50 employees

From January 2023, a monthly fine of AED6,000 can be levied against employers for every Emirati that has not been hired.

“The notable growth in the number of Emirati citizens employed in the private sector reflects the effectiveness of the Emiratisation policies that have been implemented on a semi-annual basis starting this year,” said Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Dr. Abdulrahman Al Awar.

“These efforts have accelerated progress towards meeting Emiratisation targets and ensured continuous recruitment throughout the year. Our objective is to empower Emiratis to thrive in the private sector, enhance their competitiveness, and enable them to actively participate in the economic and overall development of our country, where the private sector plays a critical and driving role.”

Al Awar expressed his confidence in the private sector’s ability to “keep meeting the required Emiratisation targets, especially with the support provided by the Ministry and the Nafis programme to enable companies to fulfil their obligations.”

The Nafis programme was launched in September 2021 to support Emirati nationals to pursue professional careers in the private sector. Against an ambitious target of creating 75,000 jobs in the private sector by 2025, the programme has several different strands – career assistance, salary subsidies, pension subsidies and support measures – by way of support to Emirati nationals seeking either to enter the workplace or to develop their career.

Nafis is also open to private sector employers essentially to partner with the UAE government to facilitate employment opportunities and to increase the number of UAE nationals in their organisation.

“It is expected that Emiratisation may be extended to companies with fewer than 50 employees in the near future,” said Jim Swallow, PRO Partner Group Commercial Director UAE.

“Companies should be calculating their Emiratisation quotas and requirements before actively seeking to fulfil these targets by hiring Emiratis into appropriate roles. To meet the Emiratisation requirements, companies should take the initiative to engage with Nafis or similar recruitment agencies for sourcing the appropriate candidates for the roles required.”

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