Emiratis over age 40 discover work is nearly impossible to find

Many are finding they are too old to be hired, but too young to collect social welfare.

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Abu Dhabi // UAE nationals aged 40 or older are often considered persona non grata by employers.

Khalid Al Noobi, 40, is one such individual. He has been turned away by dozens of companies because he is “too old”. At the same time, he is too young to qualify for social welfare.

“I wish I was refused for any other reason,” he said.

Mr Al Noobi has five children. His eldest is a 20-year-old student and the youngest is three.

“Has no one even thought how I am supposed to support my children when every door is shut to me? How am I supposed to feed them? Should I steal?”

His wife of 12 years divorced him two years ago because he was unemployed.

“The court refused that she divorce me, but she told them that I couldn’t take care of her or the kids. She saw no reason to remain married to me and preferred getting Dh4,000 from social welfare every month.”

Mr Al Noobi worked for a private company as a public relations officer.

“I used to get paid Dh11,000 to finish the paperwork of various companies and transfer papers. The company gave me an allowance of Dh500 for fuel. I needed more for all the commuting that was required, not to mention the business calls and parking bills, but when I asked that they at least increase the transportation allowance, they refused.”

He resigned last year, confident that with his experience, finding a new position would not be a problem.

“I’ve taken up various jobs previously to gain experience. I’ve always wanted to develop myself.”

Mr Al Noobi says he is willing to take any job.

“There is no shame in work. All I ask is that I develop and progress. If I’m hired as a driver then I’d like to one day be the manager of the drivers, for example.”

He was recently offered a job where he was to pick up employees from Sharjah at 5am and drop them off in Oman. He was then required to pick them up at 5pm for the return trip.

“I accepted even though it meant that I would barely have time to go home, sleep for a few hours then head back out to work at probably 4am,” the Dubai resident said.

His prospective employer did not follow up the job offer.

“The President ordered that all UAE nationals be employed in all sectors but companies keep putting conditions and restrictions,” Mr Al Noobi said. “We should be hired based on our qualifications and experiences, not our age.”

Amal Hussein, a 40-year-old former teacher said: “It’s all about wasta – who you know and your connections.”

Ms Hussein has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and worked as a computer teacher and lab supervisor for five years at a Government school.

She resigned in 2008 “because teaching wasn’t my speciality”.

She has been job hunting ever since.

“I have applied everywhere. In every Government department and private company. I opened a file at Tawteen and they said they couldn’t do anything other than apply on my behalf to different jobs,” she said.

Ms Hussein has not gone on a single job interview.

“I’m immediately rejected and some companies said that they only wanted fresh graduates,” she said.

“I’m sure it’s wasta. I have colleagues with less experience and degrees than I have and they have been hired as heads of departments.”

Ms Hussein also has an official letter from the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court ordering her immediate employment. All Emiratis are eligible to apply for such a letter.

“I was sure I would get employed with this paper but no one even responded to me. I need a job. I am not married and my father passed away. I have no wasta. Where shall I go?”