Recruiters in the UAE say they are being inundated with urgent pleas for help from private sector companies trying to hit Emiratisation targets by the end of the year.
By January 1, 2023, companies with more than 50 employees must ensure 2 per cent of their staff are Emirati under a government drive to encourage more citizens to enter the sector.
Any employer that fails to reach the target will have to pay a fine of Dh72,000 in January for each Emirati worker they fail to hire, which equates to Dh6,000 a month for every month in 2022.
“We’ve been inundated over the last few weeks with companies asking for our ‘urgent’ help to hire UAE national talent at graduate and entry level and as we’re approaching the 2022 deadline,” said Samantha Wright, managing consultant for Emiratisation with recruitment firm Michael Page.
No shortage of Emirati talent
Ms Wright said many Emirati workers were keen to make the move to private companies.
“We’ve seen a really interesting switch across the market ― I’m speaking to many UAE nationals who are actually looking to leave their government roles and are actively seeking opportunities within the private sector ― at both the junior and senior ends of the candidate market.
“There has always been a great Emirati talent pool across banking and insurance ― but we’ve started to see a push across broader industries in which there hasn’t always been a huge local talent pool or a noticeable desire to work within these spaces, specifically, retail and health care.”
The percentage of Emiratis in the private workforce will increase by 2 per cent each year until 2026, when the government expects 10 per cent of all staff to be UAE citizens.
While companies registered in free zones are exempt from the quota, they are also encouraged to hire Emiratis.
Ms Wright cautioned companies against hoping for an extension to the January 1 deadline.
“I do not feel there will be an extension. I think we’ve all had a clear target date of January 1, 2023, it has been well publicised, with both support and training offered,” she said.
“I think in some cases there have been some implementational challenges, situations where some companies have needed to make practical adjustments.”
Emirati workers in demand
Another expert explained which sectors were most likely to need Emirati talent.
“Demand for UAE nationals has grown within the private sector as companies prepare to meet the new Emiratisation requirements,” said Antonia O’Saul, team leader with Hays recruitment agency.
“On the ground we're seeing increased demand for UAE nationals across industries and functions, particularly in marketing, sales, and business development.
“There’s demand for junior roles across finance and HR, with some employers hiring candidates at graduate level and investing in learning and development programmes to upskill them for the future success of the business.”
Integrating Emiratis into the private sector will have long-term benefits for companies, said David Mackenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones.
“If you’re going to hire an expat for a senior management role then it’s going to be expensive,” he said.
“You’re going to have to pay for housing and schooling and you’re also going to have to pay them well on top of that.
“By hiring an Emirati you’re getting someone who speaks the local dialect and knows the area quite well, with contacts in the region, for a similar salary.”
He previously told The National that young Emiratis needed to be realistic when it came to salary expectations.
“Some junior-level Emiratis come to the market with high expectation to get a package range between Dh20,000 and Dh25,000 ($5,445-$6,806), but they need to be reasonable,” he said in September.
While many Emiratis are showing interest in private sector roles, the public sector still holds great appeal.
“The public sector remains interesting to lots of our Emirati candidates, as it provides an opportunity to make a real difference to an emirate or even the entire country,” said Ian Pollington, associate director with Michael Page.
“Public sector opportunities allow professionals to develop their skills and experience in fields including technology, investments, legal, strategic transformation and lots more; whilst offering a valuable contribution to the development of the UAE.”