The unemployment rate among Emiratis is five times higher than among expatriates, although UAE nationals make up only 10 percent of the country’s population, an official said yesterday.
Omar Bamadhaf Al Khatheri, chief corporate support services officer in the Abu Dhabi Government, spoke about the unemployment challenges facing the UAE national population in his keynote address at the third annual Emiratisation forum hosted by the Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group (ADUKG) at Abu Dhabi University.
“A report put out last month by Going Global says there are twice as many jobs as there are nationals in the UAE,” said Al Khatheri. “The challenge is that although Emiratis are only 10 percent of the population, their unemployment rate is five times higher than that of expatriates.”
He added this challenge is worsened by official figures that predict up to 20,000 people are annually set to join the UAE’s workforce over the next 10 years. Al Khatheri quoted 2008 statistics, which state 90 percent of the UAE’s workforce consists of expatriates and the remaining 10 percent is made up of Emiratis.
However, within the Emirati workforce, 2010 figures show unemployment rates at 13 percent and among 15- to 24-year-old Emiratis the unemployment rate is 23 percent. “Emirati unemployment started around 1995 and for the past 15 years it has been growing. And this challenge continues,” he said. “The population is increasing and this contributes to an increasing unemployment trend, which creates a complex situation.”
Al Khatheri added, however, that increased Emirati unemployment is not due to a lack of jobs — a point illustrated by the UAE’s recent upgrade to emerging market status by MSCI, which is a leading global provider of investment decision support tools.
“There is a big expansion in the oil and gas industry as well as in water and electricity, and other sectors,” he said. “Not only are people looking for jobs but companies are recruiting — so there are jobs, but they are all in the private sector.”
The problem lies in the fact that the private sector is unwilling to hire locals. According to a recent survey conducted by YouGovSiraj, nearly 70 percent of the private sector companies in the UAE are only willing to hire Emiratis if they accept certain conditions.
“The report shows 67 percent of the private sector will agree to support the Emiratisation programme only if nationals accept equal salaries, are as qualified as expatriates and are willing to work long hours,” Al Khatheri said. “And the list of âifs’ goes on and on.” Yet, he went on to say that “the future of the Emiratis is in the private sector”.