The Benefits of Having a Nationalisation Programme for The UAE

The Benefits of Having a Nationalisation Programme for The UAE

by Mark Nancarrow in career
Any UAE national will tell you that the government's dedication to their nationalisation programme (also referred to as Emiratisation) has permanently altered the face of the Emirati job market.  
Before the programme, the labour market was structurally divided, with the vast majority of jobs being taken by overseas workers. Emiratis missed out on certain job opportunities as the area’s economy grew at an accelerated rate as job seekers from all over the world flooded to the region to enjoy the many benefits of living in the UAE. 
Tax breaks for workers, competitive compensation packages and the beautiful scenery are among just some of the reasons many overseas workers were attracted to the region. 
Keeping this in mind, UAE leaders have implemented systems to make sure that local businesses and local employees are always at the forefront of growth and success opportunities. 
In this article, I will discuss the UAE nationalisation programme, and how, from a UAE recruiter’s perspective, it continues to bolster the job market and create fantastic opportunities for UAE nationals and businesses. 


What is the UAE Nationalisation Programme? 

The UAE nationalisation programme is a holistic initiative implemented by the UAE government to boost employment levels for UAE citizens in the region. 
As the UAE has grown at such a fast pace since its inception in 1971, the region’s leaders have been careful to monitor growth based on its inside, and outside influences. The nationalisation programme was created to restore an evener balance between local and workers from outside the UAE. 
Before the nationalisation program was launched in 2010, migrant workers accounted for around 90% of the region's workforce, and the programme has aimed to reduce this number. While this was beneficial for the overseas workers, it impacted the culture of the UAE, and so the reforms were brought in to encourage locals into employment. 
The nationalisation programme is beneficial for both UAE nationals, and also for private companies, as the cost of employment has been reduced thanks to a reduced cost when hiring locals, more on this later. 
Within the Emiratisation programme, looking forward to the golden jubilee of the region in 2021, a direct incentive called Vision 2021 has also been launched, as a further drive to encourage growth and prosperity for the people of the UAE. 

Vision 2021 

This initiative, launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to make the UAE among the best countries in the world, with six national priorities identified.  

These are- 
  • World-class healthcare 
  • Sustainable environment and infrastructure  
  • First-rate education 
  • Competitive knowledge economy 
  • Safe public and fair judiciary 
  • Cohesive society and preserved identity 

So what does this mean for UAE businesses and job seekers? It means that now is a great time for businesses to hire local talent thanks to the drive from the government to make the UAE one of the best places in the world to live and work.  
Because of these initiatives to increase Emirati national employment, there are both incentives and benefits for companies in hiring Emirati nationals.  
There has been a disparity in the past between the amount of UAE nationals in public vs private companies, but this is now changing. 

Public vs Private Sector 

Historically, there has been a preference of UAE nationals to choose public sector roles over working in the private sector, the implementation of new incentives have caused this to change. 
Previously, local workers took preference with public sector organisations over the private sector because they generally offered bigger salaries in careers that were considered more secure and financially robust.  
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) introduced changes to employment laws as part of the vision 2021 incentive. Private companies who register as part of the Emiratisation Partners Club will enjoy reduced fees on labour permits, exemption from banking deposits and other privileges. 
The Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE), Nasser Bin Al Hamli stated the decision aims to “boost Emiratisation in the private sector, promote cultural diversity in the labour market and encourage enterprises to employ workers who reside in the country”. 
These incentives are limited only to private sector companies which work in prioritised sectors and who contain a human resources department. 
Public sector jobs were once the first choice for Emiratis, but many are now realising the potential for promotion and growth within private sector companies, and especially multinational organisations. 
The belief that salaries and benefits are better in the public sector is a long-held stereotype. Inflated salaries and better working conditions in the private sector are helping to change Emirati’s minds.  

Developing Local Talent 

Just as much as businesses are being encouraged to take on local employees, locals should also be mindful of how beneficial these incentives are for them.  
The training and development available to employees of private firms are often first-rate, as it is in their best interest in terms of career progression and commercial opportunities. 
Kamraan Siddiqui, Dubai’s head of workforce development has said that it is incredibly beneficial for locals to take employment in the private sector. 
In an interview with The National he said “The private sector brings a diversity of opportunities for executives. It gives them exposure to entrepreneurial and commercial experience and contributes to their personal development.” 

Strengthens the Sector 

Using Emirati nationals is positive for the job market, the economy and the country as a whole. Emiratis who speak the local language, understand the culture and the nuances of Emirati society add more profound value to the UAE public and private sectors, more so than their international counterparts can. 
By utilising local talent, the UAE is strengthening itself for the future and fulfilling another of the points outlined in the Vision 2021 – to build a competitive knowledge economy. 

This year alone, the government announced that 30,000 private-sector jobs have been allocated to Emirati’s only as part of the nationalisation programme. These jobs are focused on five value-adding areas including finance and insurance, wholesale and retail, IT and communications and real estate. 

Emiratis who apply for positions and are not selected are then followed up, with analysis as to why they weren’t selected. Training is provided for them to strengthen their skills in the areas they need to help them succeed in future. 


The UAE’s Emiratisation programme is an agenda for the country to be proud of. It highlights the government’s desire to champion local values, knowledge and shows that the region has substantial forward-thinking in terms of its economy, and it’s people. 
Now is a great time to invest in the UAE thanks to the nationalisation programme, and the prosperity and growth the region is enjoying.  The country is growing at a faster rate than was predicted by the International Monetary Fund in the last two years by 0.7 and 0.9% respectively. And with Dubai Expo 2020 just around the corner, it has never been a better time for businesses in the region to invest in their future.  



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