At 50 years of age, the UAE is a young country with several global achievements, which can be credited to strategic leadership and a strong commitment to socio-economic development. As the UAE looks forward to the next 50 years of growth and development, a core priority on the national agenda is building human capital.
The UAE’s ambition is to be among the top three countries globally in talent attraction, as well as in terms of the availability of highly skilled employees, goals that can be achieved through both disruptive thinking and a raft of regulatory measures.
The UAE Strategy for Talent Attraction and Retention, a recent revision of labour laws, the shift to a Saturday-Sunday weekend, new visa rules and some of the world’s most generous parental leave policies are among the measures and schemes that are being implemented to attract top talent to the country.
Equally, fostering national talent is a priority. Recognising the crucial role that UAE citizens play in building a resilient, fast-growing economy, the government has intensified Emiratisation efforts in tandem with the above initiatives. In fact, Emiratisation will be critical to achieving the UAE’s ambition to be the foremost destination for living, working and investing.
A strategy for nurturing and growing national talent is expected to fuel fresh, indigenous points of view and interests, with more inclusive growth for organisations and society at large. It will help achieve a gender-diverse workforce, as more Emirati women participate and rise in seniority. And a diversity of ethnicities, experiences and ideas ultimately contributes to building great organisations.
The UAE’s future-focussed strategy to build human resources is underpinned by a robust Emiratisation programme. These include consistent, high-impact government initiatives and a general target of 10 per cent Emiratisation in the private sector by 2025 in skilled and knowledge-based roles (with the current requirement being 2 per cent for commercial organisations).
“Nafis”, launched in September 2021, is an initiative driving Emiratisation in the private sector. Part of the UAE’s "Projects of the 50”, it has an ambitious target of creating 75,000 jobs in the private sector by 2025. Nafis seeks to support Emirati nationals entering the workplace or developing their career more generally, and even enables organisations to facilitate employment opportunities and increase the number of UAE nationals employed.
On the back of such initiatives, several leading local private sector companies have enhanced local hiring processes at entry and senior management levels, and created Emirati training programs for capacity building. For instance, Dubai Islamic Bank reported an increase in Emirati employee appointment at branch managerial level to 100 per cent. Leading retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim will be recruiting 3,000 Emirati employees over the next five years to support the Nafis initiative. UAE nationals take up 42 per cent of company roles at the state-owned Emirates Global Aluminium.
Emiratisation schemes arising from public-private partnerships have launched apprenticeship programmes to train youth, offered internship and secondment opportunities to UAE nationals and significantly increased the number of Emiratis of both genders in top-tier management.
One of the most successful Emiratisation initiatives has been the Pre-Audit Qualification Training (PAQT) programme, devised and run by the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy in alliance with the Abu Dhabi Human Resource Authority, the Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority and private sector partners including KPMG Lower Gulf.
Since 2019, PAQT has provided more than 90 UAE nationals with essential audit knowledge and training. Its graduates have succeeded in finding valuable roles in the financial sector and supporting the government agenda of economic diversification and greater representation of UAE talent in the private sector.
Emiratisation is more than merely a box to be checked. The private sector must ensure its Emiratisation initiatives genuinely focus on the transfer of capabilities and building capacity to deliver growth in a dynamic business environment.
This is a synergistic partnership. Emiratisation helps multinational organisations become truly global and local heroes. At KPMG, for instance, our Emirati talent not only gain global exposure and opportunity to work on international assignments and clients, but the firm also gains a competitive edge with their cultural knowledge, deep commitment to national causes and nuanced perspectives of local markets.
As the UAE builds infrastructure to attract talented individuals from across the world, organisations operating in the nation would do well to prioritise attracting and nurturing Emirati talent, who will power the nation’s future growth.