Firms that missed Emirati jobs target urged to meet new deadline

More than two thirds of companies achieved the 2023 target, but remaining employers need to do more

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Employers have been urged to up their game to meet next year's Emiratisation target, as the government has set out steeper fines for failing to fill job vacancies with UAE citizens.

The UAE's labour minister said that while more than two thirds of companies had hit the January 1 target, many firms had not taken it seriously enough.

“Our policy was achievable. The [jobs] market has grown significantly in the past year,” Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, told The National at a briefing.

“These companies couldn’t reach the target and it was their decision despite the continuous support. They decided not to comply, and so they will be part of the fines list.”

Our policy was achievable. The job market has grown significantly in the past year. It was their decision, despite the continuous support
Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation

Overall, officials regard the Nafis policy — which means “compete” or “to be competitive” in Arabic — as a major success.

As of this week, there are 50,000 Emiratis working in the private sector nationwide, up from about 22,000 one year ago.

The federal government on Wednesday imposed Dh400 million ($108m) in fines on companies that failed to ensure that 2 per cent of their workforce was Emirati by January 1.

There are 13,000 companies in the UAE's private sector that met the criteria, employing more than 50 employees. Firms based in free zones are exempt.

Of these, about 9,000 met the deadline while about 3,000 companies missed it, and 1,000 partially achieved the target, labour officials said at the briefing.

By January 1, 2024, these 13,000 employers must ensure that Emiratis comprise 4 per cent of their workforce — rising to 10 per cent by the end of 2026.

“Some companies overachieved, while 7,000 companies employed Emiratis for the first time in their history,” Mr Al Awar said.

Under the programme, Emiratis are entitled to salary top-ups.

Bigger fines

Employers are fined Dh6,000 per month for every Emirati that they failed to hire, or Dh72,000 for the year.

This fine will rise to Dh84,000 this year, the minister said.

Some companies have already paid 100 per cent of their fines, while others have asked to make payments in monthly instalments, the briefing heard.

A number of employers, particularly schools, have said that they struggled to find the right Emirati jobseekers to fill the vacancies they had.

Officials countered that there are more than 17,000 citizens registered on the Nafis portal — and that some companies had not taken the target seriously.

Employers must consider the Nafis policy to be a long-term commitment, which means training, investing in and developing Emirati workers.

“To companies who couldn’t comply with the target, I would say that other companies in the same sectors and work environments hit the target,” said Mr Al Awar.

“Educational institutes have thousands of jobs, not only for teachers.

“If they claim there aren't enough Emirati teachers, then they can hire Emiratis in other jobs in their institutes.

“We have meetings with many institutes and we heard many excuses. However, some brought Emiratis and trained them to teach some topics like Arabic, Islamic and social studies.”

Of the Emiratis who secured jobs under the programme, 76 per cent had not worked for a private sector firm before.

Ghannam Al Mazrouei, Secretary General of the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council, speaks to the media about Emiratisation. Victor Besa / The National

Ghannam Al Mazrouei, Secretary General of the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council, said the policy will continue to help Emiratis secure good opportunities.

“Our target for 2023 is to have more than 24,000 job vacancies and reach 170,000 Emiratis in the private sector in the coming five years,” he said.

The Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council, led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court, said on Wednesday that it had recorded 227 instances in which fake jobs were offered to meet the deadline.

Emiratis taking private sector jobs are entitled to salary top-ups from the government, to recognise that they would typically earn more in the public sector.

An Emirati in a private company could receive up to Dh7,000 per month if they have a bachelor’s degree, Dh6,000 if they have a diploma and Dh5,000 if they completed high school or less.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 3:50 AM