All nationalities queue for Abu Dhabi job fair

Job seekers of all nationalities queue in droves to enter a career fair after the global recession that has tightened the job market.

ABU DHABI // Job seekers of all nationalities queued to enter a career fair today amid a global recession that has tightened the job market and made new employment difficult to come by. The Tawdheef recruitment fair, which runs until Thursday, began at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, ostensibly to showcase the opportunities available to young Emiratis. However, workers from the Philippines and India also turned out in droves to interview with local human resources firms and to find more stable employment as the fear of layoffs continued to mount.

"We would like to find a job with accounts. Our present employer is a small travel agency," said Rosella Franco, 28, who was filling out an application at the fair alongside her husband. Both are from the Philippines. She said they were looking for a job within the government sector because they are concerned about their prospects in the smaller firm. "We started to worry because of the recession," she said. "I feel that if I can find a government job, that will provide a good future for my family."

Ian Giulianotti, the director of Nadia recruitment, said the job market has changed dramatically over the past 18 months. "Before, if you had an open house, the people looking for a job would be unemployed," he said. "It's a matter of supply and demand. If you came to me 18 months ago and said, 'I need a secretary,' you would get three CVs and you would have to make a decision within three days. Then you would have to offer 50 per cent more pay," Mr Giulianotti said. "Now if you ask me for a secretary, you'll get between five and 10 CVs and you could make an offer that was non-negotiable." The instability of the market has also led to non-payment and job insecurity, he said. "People are sitting around, noticing companies not doing well and they ask, 'should I jump before I'm pushed?'"

Mahmoud Thouseef, 21, who recently graduated from an MBA programme in India, has spent the past week searching for an administrative or accounting job. "There are few positions. It's the recession that is putting the pressure on," he said. Some of the country's top public and private sector employers - including the telecoms providers Etisalat and du, and the Navy and Air Force - were on hand to try and recruit Emiratis. "These fairs are quite useful because they give us the opportunity to talk to a lot of people within a short period of time," said Fahad al Hassawi, the chief human resources and corporate services officer with du. Fairs are also often used by companies to showcase the latest efforts they have made towards increasing the number of Emirati employees.

Most private sector companies find Emiratisation efforts to be difficult as they cannot match public sector wages. Hantoma Mazrouei, who was volunteering to promote a job database website, said some Emirati job-seekers seemed frustrated and resigned. "Some people have skills but they don't know which jobs might fit them better," she said. "There should be a programme for people to find jobs that match their skills." [Note] Among Emiratis who have spent months searching for work, the mood was dour. Companies, they said, just are not trying. Tariq al Mazrouei, 26, an Emirati, said he attended the fair last year and was offered a job with UAExchange within two days. However, he said he quickly realised the position was not for him and has since spent a year trying to find a new position.

"I'm looking for a new job in a different field because I like change," he said. Numerous obstacles tend to keep Emiratis out of the private sector, where they constitute less than one per cent of the workforce. Public sector jobs tend to offer more stability and better hours than the private sector jobs. "Right now, I have a job as a policeman," said Alhaj Amouya, 42, an Emirati. "But I want to quit the police. I want to look for something better."

He did not know what other jobs he might be interested in. "Something in the public sector," he said. However, du's Mr al Hassawi said with increasing opportunities in the private sector, that tide may be shifting. "The private sector can provide better career growth opportunities," he said. "In the public sector, they can get stuck."