Desperately seeking a cushy job, Emirati grads flock to the public sector

Published March 11th, 2013 - 01:17 GMT
Graduates in the UAE prefer the public over the private sector when looking for their first job
Graduates in the UAE prefer the public over the private sector when looking for their first job

According to a research study conducted by online recruiting firm, 86 per cent of Emirati male graduates and 66 per cent of females prefer to work in the government sector after graduation. Multinationals were second in popularity, with UAE private sector firms being the last choice, preferred by just four per cent of males and 10 per cent of females.

Respondents cited higher salary and benefits, better working conditions and greater job security as the main reasons for the appeal of the government sector.

The study shows that Abu Dhabi investment firm Mubadala is the employer of choice for the majority of graduates, followed by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Masdar (also a subsidiary of Mubadala), Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Abu Dhabi Executive Council.

A significant number of graduates interviewed by said that they were attracted by the prospect of working with other Emiratis. While they were open to working with other cultures and nationalities, many felt more comfortable in a predominantly Emirati workplace where they shared common habits and where they could be sure that their culture and values were fully understood and hence respected, according to the study.

Among Emirati females, some were keen to work in organisations with separate sections for women, either due to their own preference or out of respect for the concerns of their families.

When choosing specific organisations to join within the government sector, respondents cited a number of criteria as the basis of their selection. Some 72 per cent of graduates said a challenging and interesting work environment is the most important factor when selecting their employer, according to the study.  Good training and development (53 per cent) and a good public image and reputation (43 per cent) are also of high priority, they said.

As for salary expectations, male graduates said they expect to receive a minimum of AED 27,000 per month (including allowances) and AED 19,000 for females.

The study also reveals the importance of family in graduates’ career decisions. 94 per cent of females said the family had a role in their decision, which can range from giving advice only, to the family actually making the career decision. A family’s decision is largely determined by the public image of the company as well as people they know within the company, the findings show.

Other questions addressed by the study include the importance of job location on career decisions (most graduates prefer to work close to their home town) and graduates’ perceptions of employment criteria (relevant work experience and relevant major being seen as key). Around one-quarter of graduates believe personal connections (Wasta) to be a key factor in the employers’ recruitment process and feel it helps to know someone already working for the company to which they are applying, the findings show.

Based on statistics from the UAE Labour Ministry, over 90 per cent of the Emirati working population of 225,000 are employed in the public sector, with the rest working in the government or affiliated entities. The UAE private sector, despite employing over 4 million expatriates, is only home to 22,000 citizens.

According to recent media reports, the UAE government is studying a number of measures to make the private sector more attractive for Emiratis by bringing its benefits more into line with those in the public sector. These reportedly include subsidising the salaries of citizens employed in the private sector, adjusting private sector working hours and days, as well as measures to boost job security for Emiratis in the private sector.’s study aims to help companies evaluate and improve their approach to recruiting Emirati graduates. It was based on a survey of 112 UAE youth who were about to graduate from university or had recently graduated. The full research report can be downloaded free of charge from

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