Employers must introduce schemes to attract UAE nationals into positions offering career growth if they are to meet a target of placing 75,000 Emiratis in private sector jobs, recruiters have said.
The drive to increase Emirati participation in the private sector is part of initiatives to boost the UAE economy through the Projects of the 50.
A series of financial incentives and training programmes were announced on Sunday. These will be the cornerstone of growth as the country marks 50 years since unification.
The government will spend Dh24 billion ($6.53 billion) to place Emiratis in the private sector, including incentives such as paying Dh5,000 to the citizen on top of their salary.
The minimum quota of Emiratis in a private sector company has been changed from 2 per cent to 10 per cent, to be achieved within five years.
David Mackenzie, managing director of Dubai recruitment firm Mackenzie Jones, said companies should seek high-performing citizens and offer career progression and training.
“I think it can be very difficult attracting Emiratis into an environment where there are 2 per cent Emiratis,” he said.
“I think you've got to brand yourself as an ‘Emirati employer of choice’. I think there needs to be a training scheme, good progression and development of individuals – that would attract them.
“If you’re someone who wants to work from 7am to 1pm, you’re going to stay with the government sector," Mr Mackenzie said.
"So, what you want to do is attract the high-performing ones into the private sector.
"At the moment, some of the government companies are attracting them directly.”
Nevin Lewis, the chief executive of Black and Grey Human Resources in the UAE, said employers should seek potential employees at universities and job fairs.
He said companies ought to send their “best recruiter” to brand the business in a way that would be attractive to UAE nationals, such as presenting opportunities for career growth and training programmes.
“Now the bonus from the government acts as an equaliser, and Emirati jobseekers would be open to positions that offer learning and growth opportunities,” Mr Lewis said.
Last year, the What About Youth? survey, completed by 11,000 students from 16 Dubai universities take part, showed that half of Emirati students expected a starting monthly salary of Dh15,000 to Dh30,000.
In comparison, 58 per cent of foreign resident students aimed for a starting salary of up to Dh7,500 a month, according to the survey.
In the past, Emiratis have preferred jobs in the public sector due to attractive salaries and shorter working hours.
However, a growing number of UAE citizens, especially new graduates, have been seeking roles in the private sector that would help them establish a career in their chosen field.
“From my experience, there have always been Emiratis who have been hesitant, or very selective, with the private companies they’d work for,” Mr Lewis said.
“This announcement and support from the government opens up doors for more challenging roles in the private sector that are usually taken up by expats.
“It creates a lot of opportunities for the locals and I think that’s good news for the private sector companies and citizens.”
Mr Lewis said the new minimum 10 per cent requirement of Emirati staff within a company would help “level the playing field” and help boost skills and talents of UAE nationals.
“Now, they’ll be competing with and learning from the best.
“If you look at the private sector, that’s where most of the aggressive and fastest growing companies,” Mr Lewis said.
“So, they’ll be exposed to a lot of newer and bigger opportunities.”
He said a greater presence of UAE citizens within a private sector community could also help in terms of expat-Emirati interactions.
“On a community basis, I think there have been very few opportunities for expats and locals to interact,” Mr Lewis said.
“So, bringing them into the private sector, I think, it will make a better community.”