GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Perception of Young Emiratis on the Emiratisation Policy of the UAE Government
Paper Proposal Text :
The government policy of Emiratisation aims to encourage private sector employment among UAE nationals. It aims to do so by labour market interventions such as the setting of quotas for private organisations to hire national workers, establishing certain professions for nationals only, as well as improved vocational and on-the-job training. Despite the UAE’s investment in its nationalization policy and the establishment of government bodies to oversee its implementation, it has had limited success. In fact, work force nationalization is a policy perused by all governments in the GCC. Due to differing economic and social factors, success has been variable, with Oman and Bahrain having the most success, Qatar and the UAE the least. The dramatic increase in the UAE’s population between 2000 and 2012, which rose from three million to over nine million (World Bank, 2013) mostly due to the growing expat community, combined with the increasing unemployment of nationals, is an issue of concern for the UAE government. Currently, the unemployment rate amongst Emiratis is 14 per cent (Sarby & Zaman 2013). This is even higher for the young nationals and particularly females, where unemployment has reached 80% (Swan, 2013). Moreover, private sector employees are overwhelmingly non-nationals, with Emiratis comprising less than 1 per cent (Sabry, 2013), accounting for about 22,000 of the four million private-sector workforce (Salama, 2013). These figures are alarming to the leadership, as the public sector cannot accommodate all the new graduates and UAE nationals are reluctant to work in the private sector. As the public sector jobs are scarce, the government is trying to encourage private sector employment among nationals.

The Emiratisation policy perused by the UAE government was introduced in the early 1990s. Despite the investment placed in the policy and the various initiatives the government has implemented to promote private sector employment, most UAE nationals prefer public sector employment, and in fact, shy away from jobs in the private sector. In 2012, a new initiative, Absher, was established, again with the purpose of increasing the numbers of Emirati nationals employed in the private sector. This initiative differed from previous attempts because of the targeting of students currently in tertiary education. Along with campaigns at national universities where the benefits of private sector employment are highlighted, it provides training for new graduates with guaranteed private sector jobs upon completion of the period. This focus on university students as the target of the current Emiratisation drive is the motivation for this research. The students of Khalifa University (KU), used as the subject of this research, make an interesting case study of UAE university students. Being the only co-educational government university in the UAE, the families of the students may be relatively open-minded (this is particularly relevant to the female students) than those that opt for single sexed tertiary educational institutes. Furthermore, the entry requirements for Khalifa University are higher than all other national universities, thus the students are often the top of their classes in high school. Moreover, as an engineering university, Khalifa students have the potential for employment in both private and public sectors. This research aims to examine the perception of the policy of Emiratisation among the students at Khalifa University, to assess what they perceive to be challenges to the success of this policy as well as the challenges facing Emirati workers. It seeks to gain an understanding of why they have the perceptions they do and how these perceptions may have been formed. Throughout the study, the gender differences to perceptions will be highlighted. This research will be conducted by surveying the students with follow up focus groups to delve deeper into issues which emerge.

The examination of the perception of UAE university students will be conducted within the framework of a constructivist analysis of the rentier state theory. To give credence to the constructivist perspective that will be used, consideration is given to what Beblawi (1990) described a rentier mentality in his analysis of rentier states. The caricature of a citizen of a rentier society as “a member of a special group, who though he does not partake in economic production, receives nevertheless a share in the produce and at times a handsome share” is often used to describe the citizens of these states. Beblawi continues, “the distinguishing feature of the rentier, thus, resides in the lack or absence of a productive outlook in his behaviour” (Beblawi, 1990: 86). This implies a disruption of the work-reward relationship, where reward is not related to work or risk bearing but to chance or situation (1990: 88). In the case of the UAE, nationals are influenced by this lack of productive outlook. Thus, this paper will argue that the notion of the rentier mentality is one that is socially constructed, and that the UAE’s social contract- the unwritten agreement between the government and its citizens, where UAE nationals are provided with the necessary conditions for a comfortable life in return for unquestioning loyalty- acts to enhance the notion of the rentier mentality.

Previous research has been conducted to examine the Emiratisation process from a business and human relations perspective, with analysis providing details of the flaws of the program and detailing reasons why private sector employment is unpopular amongst Emirati nationals. However, there has been little research examining the perception of the policy amongst nationals, as well as an analysis of their understanding of this policy. Moreover, there has also been little research into what nationals perceive as the barriers to its success. This research aims to fill this gap in the research. An understanding of how young nationals perceive Emiratisation could provide insight into why the policy has had limited success, and could highlight further measures which need to be taken to address the issue of Emiratis engaging in private sector employment.

This study will initially review the current literature on Emiratisation, describing the various perspectives through which the policy has been examined. Next, the premise for this investigation will be discussed using a constructivist perspective of the rentier state theory as the theoretical framework. The methodology will describe how this examination has been conducted and the rationale for the selection of the subjects. The results of the investigation will then be discussed and an examination and the implications of the findings will be analysed. This research concludes with an assessment of the intersection of perception the policy between young Emiratis and that of the portrayed intentions of the UAE policymakers as per government policy.

Beblawi, Hazem (1990) “The Rentier State in the Arab World” in The Arab State, Luciani, Giacomo (eds.),University of California Press; Los Angeles
Sabry, Sara (2013) “Increase the number of Emiratis in the private sector is a main priority of ADTC” Gulf News, 2 October, 2013
Sarby, Sara & Zaman, Samihah (2013) “Emirati unemployment at 14%” Gulf News, 29 January, 2013
Salama, Samir (2013) “Campaign lures Emiratis to jobs in private sector” Gulf News, 23 September, 2013,
World Bank (2013) “Data- Population”