Emiratisation has become a divisive issue even among the people it is supposed to benefit in the many years since the initiative was launched. Faisal al Qasimi, 27, an Emirati, works as an associate at the Advanced Technology Investment Company and believes some Emiratis have been hired just to fulfil government mandates. "The inherent problem is a sense of entitlement," says Mr al Qasimi. "It can be solved if you encourage more competition and open up more sectors. If you add more positions they'll become more competitive. Not everyone wants to be a banker or work in government."
But other Emiratis say the past decade has brought vast improvements in the local workforce. "The local workforce is becoming more and more competent," says Mohamed bin Jabr, 28, an executive director at the defence contractor Bin Jabr Group. "They can compete with expats in certain areas. Jobs like engineering, which usually were dominated by expats in the past, have become more diversified." Mr bin Jabr attributes this change to investment in skills and training. "The Government has been investing a lot in sending students abroad and encouraging them to study not only business but also niche subjects and certain specialisations," he says. "That is certainly paying off."
Many business owners, such as the Indian businessman JP Nambiar, 52, the head of retail at an electronics firm, support Emiratisation but with reservations. "Ideally, [hiring] should be based on merit rather than any particular nationality," he says. "But, having said that, we're all living in a country as expatriates and I think it's important that the local population should be given first rights in terms of employment.
"It'll take a while for people of this generation to adjust to the rigours of free enterprise." @Email:email@example.com