Equal holidays make a stronger economy

Aligning the public and private sectors is not only fair, it is a step towards the future

Emiratis on their way to visit the Louvre. Courtesy DCT Abu Dhabi
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

On Tuesday, the UAE government announced that the dates for public holidays in 2019 and 2020 will be identical for the public and private sectors – an encouraging move with implications far beyond planning time off work. The Cabinet clarified in a tweet that the decision to implement equal holidays "aims at achieving a balance between the two sectors and supporting the national economy".

This is a first for the nation, signalling that the government wishes all employees to be treated even-handedly. After all, it is only fair that hard-working people who contribute equally to society should be entitled to the same concessions. Additionally, the move proves that both sectors are of equal value and will allow public and private companies to co-operate more seamlessly, since the overwhelming majority of employees will all work the same days.

Equal holiday, as a symbol of equitable treatment, is also likely to make the private sector more attractive to Emirati citizens, who have traditionally been more prominently represented in the public sector. Serving one's country carries great prestige and is, understandably, a source of pride. The public sector also provides greater job security and often more attractive salaries than private companies.

But this imbalance is not viable in the long run. Government and private-sector employment must sit comfortably side by side as the nation diversifies its economy and embraces the future.

Highly educated and well-qualified Emiratis – including a growing number of young women– are entering the workforce every year, and it is simply not feasible for the public sector alone to provide employment for everyone. These ambitious and skilled young people should be encouraged to embrace the opportunities offered by private-sector work. Steps such as the introduction of equal public holidays send a clear message of parity. Attracting and bolstering local talent across a variety of industries, both local and global, it is an important stop on the road to tomorrow's economy.