The government will ask companies to prioritise Emiratis over expats for jobs in about 2,000 companies as part of a drive to push more UAE nationals into the private sector.
The Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources has selected 400 job titles of positions that it wants to see Emiratis given the opportunity to fill, before an expat is brought in to take the role.
Officials said companies would not be compelled to take UAE nationals on - but give them an interview or opportunity they may not have otherwise been given.
The selected posts have a salary that exceeds Dh10,000, and are based on professions currently filled by UAE nationals.
The aim is to provide 15,000 job opportunities for Emiratis by the end of this year.
That would mark a significant rise on 2017, when the the ministry found jobs for 6,862 Emiratis in the private sector. That was up from 5,608 in 2016.
When one of the 2,000 companies seeks to recruit an expat for a position, the ministry will scan the market for a suitable Emirati.
If none is found, the company can go ahead and recruit the expat.
If a potential Emirati recruit is found, the company has to interview them and will be encouraged to prioritise them - if they are fit for the job.
“At the end of the day, the ministry will not force the company to recruit the Emirati, only to prioritise them,” said Minister Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli, who was newly appointed in October.
And if the company sees the Emirati candidate as unfit, they should justify the reasons to the ministry.
“We will receive their feedback, and train the Emirati to become qualified, of course they can go ahead in the mean time and recruit someone to fill the post - we won’t keep the post on hold," he said.
He did not provide examples of the selected companies, but described them as important players in the UAE’s economic supply chain, and that provide job security and have a large number of employees.
The nationwide drive is similar to the role played by Abu Dhabi's Tawteen Council, which was phased out in 2015 and made part of the Human Resources Authority.
The minister said the drive will not leave expats who were originally selected for the job in limbo.
“This procedure will take place from the start, before the company applies for the work visa. They will apply for the work contract, and no one will leave his job or enter the country before having a contract ready," Mr Al Hamli said.
Once companies get used to the concept, he hopes they will start to scan the market from themselves for Emiratis first.
“We are now in a transition period, so in this phase the companies will be shuffling their priorities," he said.
Members of the Federal National Council have repeatedly asked the government to do more to boost employment levels, claiming too many graduates in particular are unable to find good jobs.
“The goal is to speed up Emiratisation in the private sector and give a chance to UAE nationals to be interviewed.”
Nevertheless, Emiratisation is moving at a slow pace and the ministry had to take initiatives to speed it up, he said.
“Emiratisation is a joint responsibility and will be achieved by building partnerships; the government will synchronise with the private sector," the minister said.
At present, there are 4,155 Emirati candidates registered in the ministry’s database, which companies can already search for by qualification and job area.
As an incentive for companies who cooperate with the scheme, they will be given discounts on government fees relating to their business.
In addition, the ministry will also offer to set “satellite offices” for companies in rural areas, to boost employment there.
The first office was set in Khor Fakkan for Emirates National Bank of Dubai, which has so far recruited ten Emiratis.
By the end of 2018, 1,500 such offices will open based on companies’ requests in Ras Al Khaiman, Fujairah and Khor Fakkan.
“And in the coming years, similar offices will open in Mussafah, Bida’ Zayed, Al Ain, Al Dhaid, Ajman and Um Al Quwain," the minister added.