Emiratisation: Shaping the Future of Hiring in the UAE

In response to a high immigrant population (88%) within its workforce, the UAE launched the "Emiratisation" initiative, which aims to empower citizens, diversify the job market, and boost the economy. Today, we dive deep into Emiratisation: its mission, key programs, and what it means for businesses.

Emiratisation: Definition and Objectives

Emiratisation is an initiative launched by the UAE government to enhance employment opportunities for Emiratis. It mandates that every company in the UAE must employ a certain number of Emiratis, aiming to address the imbalance created by the predominantly immigrant workforce. This initiative focuses on two key objectives: diversifying the UAE's labour pool and empowering its citizens.

However, achieving these goals requires careful consideration of various factors, including:

Educational alignment

Aligning academic programs with industry needs is crucial to producing graduates equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge.
The Teaching Specialists' Programme, provided by the Emirates government, offers specialised training and professional accreditation to Emirati jobseekers. This initiative aims to equip them for rewarding careers in private schools, fostering a skilled teaching workforce for the future. Annually, the program generates 1,000 education jobs for Emiratis, contributing to the development of a robust and talented teaching community.

Cultural considerations

Addressing potential cultural differences between the workforce and fostering an inclusive work environment is essential for successful integration.

Key Initiatives

  • Larger Companies
    The Emiratisation initiative mandates a 2% annual increase in skilled Emirati hiring for larger companies, aiming for 10% by 2026. While incentives reward compliance, penalties rise (AED 6,000 + AED 1,000/year) for non-compliance.
  • Smaller Companies
    As of 2024, the UAE requires companies with 20-49 employees to increase their local workforce by hiring 1 Emirati, progressing to 2 in 2025. Failure to comply across key sectors attracts penalties (AED 96,000 in 2024, AED 108,000 in 2025).
The initiative prioritises creating 75,000 new private-sector jobs for Emiratis by 2026. It actively incentivises companies to invest in local talent, fostering workforce diversity and healthy competition.

How to post jobs and hire Emirati professionals

Firms aiming to advertise Emiratisation jobs should avoid the following:
  • 1
    Deceptive or low-skill offers
    Refrain from posting jobs lacking genuine career potential or falsely advertising unskilled positions as opportunities for Emirati candidates.
  • 2
    Unauthorised claims
    Do not mention government Emiratisation policies or the benefits without prior approval from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.
  • 3
    Unapproved incentive details
    Provide only factual information about your company's offerings. Avoid promoting government incentives or support programs for hiring Emirati nationals unless you have explicit authorisation.

When it comes to hiring Emirati employees, there are a few points to consider:

  • Offer a suitable work environment and tools: Provide necessary equipment and a safe workplace for your Emirati employee.
  • Minimum on-the-job training: Ensure they can successfully fulfil their duties through initial training.
  • Work permit: Get it from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE).
  • Employment contract: Sign a proper agreement outlining terms and conditions.
  • Pay through Wages Protection System: Ensure timely and secure salary payments.
  • Pensions and social security: Register them and make contributions within a month of the work permit.
  • Report contract changes: Notify MoHRE of any updates affecting their eligibility for government support programs.
  • Cancel work permit upon termination: This must be done immediately after employment ends.

What you cannot do:

  • Deduct from salary for government support: Don't withhold part of their pay for these programs.
  • Lower salaries based on nationality: Pay Emiratis the same wage as others in the same position.

Penalties and Consequences for Bypassing Emiratisation Targets

Companies that fail to meet Emiratisation and Nafis (The Emirati Human Resources Competitiveness Council) targets may face significant penalties and fines.

What Constitutes Violations?

  • Fake Emiratisation: It includes falsifying documents or data to obtain Nafis benefits.
  • Employee No-Show: When an employee skips work, yet the employer continues to receive Nafis support.
  • Nafis Abuse: This occurs when an employee receiving Nafis benefits demonstrates poor work commitment, and the employer fails to report it.
  • Post-Training Abandonment: If an employer doesn't hire the Emirati individual after Nafis training without a valid reason.
  • Unapproved Contract Changes: Modifying the employment contract without Nafis approval.
  • Target Circumvention: Reducing Emirati employees or manipulating classifications to evade meeting targets.

What Penalties Can Companies Face?

  • 1
    First Offence: A fine of AED 100,000.
  • 2
    Second Offence: A fine of AED 300,000.
  • 3
    Third or Subsequent Offence: A fine of AED 500,000.
Additionally, companies must still meet the original target even after a violation.

Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses:

Emiratisation presents both challenges and opportunities for IT businesses operating in the UAE. Some of the key opportunities include:
  • Access to a wider talent pool
    By actively engaging with Emirati candidates, businesses can tap into a previously underutilised talent pool, potentially enriching their workforce with diverse perspectives and skillsets.
  • Government incentives
    The UAE government offers various incentives, such as financial aid and tax breaks, to businesses that actively participate in Emiratisation initiatives.
  • Enhanced brand image
    Demonstrating commitment to Emiratisation can positively impact a company's brand image and reputation within the UAE market.
However, Emiratisation also presents challenges:
  • Recruitment
    Identifying and attracting qualified Emirati candidates can be challenging, requiring businesses to invest in targeted recruitment strategies.
  • Meeting quotas
    Government-mandated Emiratisation quotas can put pressure on businesses, especially those struggling to find suitable candidates.

If you're unsure how to find and hire employees in the UAE, contacting a professional IT recruitment agency is the best solution. Successful hiring depends on deep expertise of the region's nuances and knowing where to find the best candidates. With over 7 years of experience in the field, Lucky Hunter can help you connect with the top specialists in the region. Fill out the form below, and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Alexandra Godunova
Content Manager at Lucky Hunter
Focusing on a diverse range of topics including talent acquisition strategies, employer branding, workplace culture, leadership development, and industry trends. With her extensive knowledge, she delivers engaging content that helps businesses thrive in the competitive landscape of today's job market.

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