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UAE aims to boost private sector jobs for nationals tenfold by 2021 Govt may intervene in labour market to reach goal

DUBAI, Jan 15, (RTRS): The United Arab Emirates wants to increase the number of its citizens employed in the private sector tenfold by 2021, and will intervene in the labour market if necessary to reach that goal, the prime minister said on Tuesday. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was listing the government’s policy goals for the next seven years in a speech to more than 300 officials in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. “Our goal is to increase the Emiratisation in the private sector tenfold. The government will enforce a number of measures if there is not enough incentive for working in the private sector,” Sheikh Mohammed said, quoted by state news agency WAM.

Fewer than 15 percent of the UAE’s roughly 9 million people are estimated to be local citizens; most of the rest are foreign workers. More than two-thirds of the UAE citizens in employment work in the public sector, the International Monetary Fund says. Sheikh Mohammed did not elaborate on what steps the government might take. Officials have been considering a range of options, including changing labour laws to make private sector employment more attractive for UAE citizens, and imposing a tax on foreign workers’ remittances of money to their home countries, which could make it more expensive to hire foreigners.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Oman are also trying to push more of their citizens into private sector jobs through steps such as labour quotas and financial incentives. The UAE government is keen to move more of its citizens to the private sector to diversify the economy and ease pressure on state finances. But it has struggled to do so, partly as public sector jobs tend to pay more and have shorter working hours. Any steps the government takes are likely to be cautious, because of the risk of raising costs for companies and deterring foreign investment. Sheikh Mohammed also indicated the government would focus on housing construction, saying it wanted to shorten the waiting period for its citizens to obtain housing after they filed applications to two years from five years at present.

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