Unemployment among Emiratis in the United Arab Emirates is estimated at 12%. This is despite the country’s economic strength and its ‘paternal state’ system, in which citizens are provided with extensive benefits and, often, secure public sector jobs. Reducing this unemployment rate, particularly amongst youth, in both the public and private sectors is an essential task. The perceptions of jobless young Emiratis provide insights on the causes, and potential solutions, to their unemployment.
Education Sector Poorly Matched To the Workplace
Young Emiratis feel that their education system, particularly at the secondary school level, is inadequately preparing them for the workplace. The skills taught, and the relevance of education to the job market, are seen as insufficient. Although higher education is viewed more positively, young Emiratis perceive a lack of training programmes, and few links between universities and the workplace. Females are much more optimistic than males, who tend to be indifferent towards the challenges and successes of the education sector.
Private Sector Criticised, But Not Rejected
The private sector is viewed negatively by many young Emiratis who, having grown up in a society of public sector jobs with high benefits, view private employment as poorly-paid, hard work with few benefits. Nonetheless, young Emiratis defy the idea that they would be unwilling to work for a private company, with many expressing eagerness to do so. Defying another popular conception, Emirati youth view issues of gender and culture as marginal to their employment preferences.
Strong State Intervention Called For
Despite their willingness to work in the private sector, Emirati youth still expect the government to play a strong role throughout the employment process, from improving the quality of school curricula to directly creating more jobs. Young Emiratis support the expansion of Emiratisation, the government policy of proactively boosting the levels of UAE nationals in the workplace.
Emirati youth do not express anger towards their government. They do, however, feel frustrated with their education system, with working conditions in the private sector, a general lack of jobs and have many suggestions for their government on remedying these perceived problems. It is imperative to assess their perceptions on the causes, effects and solutions of their unemployment.