Over a decade ago, the UAE unveiled Vision 2021, a programme to accelerate the country’s growth and lay the foundation for the decades to come. Back then, two of the six priorities on the national agenda were a cohesive society and a competitive knowledge economy.
By the time 2021 came around, the world was in the throes of Covid-19 and all of the economic and social disruption that came with it. Even so, the UAE’s national agenda emerged relatively unscathed, thanks to a strong pandemic response and solid fundamentals. This much is evident in several global Covid resilience rankings in which the UAE has topped the list of places where expatriates would like to live and work.
In line with the country's ambitious long-term goals, on the UAE's most recent Golden Jubilee, in December, President Sheikh Khalifa repeated what the country’s leaders had long understood: that human capital is at the very heart of the UAE strategy for the future, making investment in the talent of the UAE's population a top priority.
In the months since the jubilee celebration, the means through which the country can achieve these ambitions have been mapped out in further detail. On Wednesday, the UAE announced updated visa rules that eased the way for new families and job seekers to come to the UAE. It includes updates that attract job seekers, as well as new avenues through which people can avail themselves of the country’s “Golden Visa” programme, which offers long-term residence.
The benefits will go beyond attracting talent. They are targeted towards building an even stronger society, where families are prioritised. The children of UAE residents now have a buffer after reaching adulthood during which they can look for employment in the country without worrying about the expiration of their residency permits; their parents can now sponsor them till age 25.
Keeping family at the centre of the visa overhaul is expected to have a positive knock-on effect for businesses. The UAE's economy can thus benefit in important ways. For instance, the job market will become more self-sustained when companies can scout for talent from within the country. There is time and money saved when candidates being interviewed are already in the UAE on a job exploration entry visa, the now-extended validity of which will ease the stress that prospective employees may feel in finding a job. In not having to scout for talent from overseas, the gains are many.
As job seekers can now legally remain in the country for two months, as opposed to one month, which was the case previously, the process for people to find the right vacancy, commensurate with their skillset and experience, and for companies to hire the right candidate, also improves.
When the right people are in the right jobs, the quality of work and the volume of output aligns with the long-term goals of the country. Filling in vacancies at UAE-based companies will become easier, quicker and more efficient. This will then improve the overall work output across industries, which is a boon for any economy.
The increased flexibility that the UAE's new visa rules have afforded will be welcomed by many of the country's residents, whether those looking to sponsor elderly parents to come live with them, or an immediate relative. It is good news also for people looking for a longer holiday in the Emirates, or on repeated breaks to the UAE, thanks to a multi-entry tourist visa.
In meeting the needs of families, the country has set about deepening roots to form a more cohesive society. And given the benefits this spells for the job market, the UAE has lent itself the right boost for the coming decades.