Young Emiratis turn to entrepreneurship amid Covid-19, say experts

Prominent UAE business leaders say the outbreak has forced fresh graduates to be creative

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 18 NOVEMBER 2020. Candid Career Talk by Futures Abroad at the capital Club in DIFC. Essa Al Ghurair, Vice Chairman, Al Ghurair Investments. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
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Emirati graduates are increasingly looking to start their own businesses instead of seeking employment, business leaders have said.

Companies worldwide have had to reduce staff or cut salaries due to the Covid-19 pandemic, making an already strained job market harder to break into for fresh graduates.

At a career event organised by Futures Abroad, an education consultancy in the UAE, experts said they had noticed a shift in priorities among young Emiratis since the outbreak.

Covid-19 has put a handbrake on everything

“Covid-19 has put a handbrake on everything,” said Essa Al Ghurair, chairman of Essa Al Ghurair Investment, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the Middle East.

He said young Emiratis were keen on setting up businesses in several sectors, including food and delivery, rather than working in public sector jobs.

“Earlier, they took the easy way of going for government jobs, but now they are going towards entrepreneurship," he said.

“They are looking at manufacturing and doing things themselves rather than just going for government jobs.

“Covid-19 was a wake-up call and disturbed a lot of things."

He said young people had to introspect and ask themselves if they were in the right business going forward and how they could make the best of their time in the pandemic.

Mr Al Ghurair advised that budding entrepreneurs consider the types of businesses that could flourish amid the pandemic and commit to that path.

“Make up your mind about which direction you would like to go in and remember there is no right or wrong," he said.

He warned against romanticising the idea of becoming their own bosses and said every career choice required hard work.

“If you work for the government you have to make sure you are productive. If you work in the private sector, it's harder as you have to work longer hours," he said.

“If you choose to be an entrepreneur, you have to work even harder as it’s your own business so you have to be involved all day.”

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 18 NOVEMBER 2020. Candid Career Talk by Futures Abroad at the capital Club in DIFC.  Vandana Mahajan, Founder, Futures Abroad. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

Vandana Mahajan, managing director at Futures Abroad, said Emiratis and residents were drawn to doing business in the UAE because it was easy to set up a venture.

She said recent regulations including the golden visa and a new programme which allowed people who work remotely long-term to move to Dubai, would encourage people to be entrepreneurs in the emirates.

Hisham Al Gurg, chief executive at the private office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed and Seed Group, which operates in industries such as technology, healthcare, tourism and hospitality, said Covid-19 did not discriminate against any sectors.

He said entrepreneurship was a feasible option for many young Emiratis as they often had lower living expenses.

“It’s easier for them to become entrepreneurs than join the private sector which is very demanding,” said Mr Al Gurg.

“It’s easier for Emirati youth to start businesses because if they have a good idea they can get funding.

"Now, with crowdfunding it's easy to raise capital."

He said many of his family members and friends have started businesses in digital and delivery sectors, after reskilling by learning to code at home.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that unemployment rates rose from 11.7 per cent to 16.6 per cent since February for those aged 15 to 24 – more than double the rise for those aged 25 and over. The statistics were based on a survey of 34 OECD member countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Spain, eight further non-member nations, the European Commission and 81 youth organisations.

According to this year's Arab Youth Survey, one in five young Arabs either lost their job or had someone in their family be made redundant due to coronavirus.

The survey reported that 72 per cent said it was “much more difficult” or a “little more difficult” to find a job now compared with the pre-Covid era.

Maya Al Hawary, chairman of board of governors at Dubai Carmel School, said she hoped the new golden visa would open doors and opportunities for the youth.

“This will attract talent. A whole new job market will come up soon,” said Ms Al Hawary.

She said the new visa would help people feel secure and safe.

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