Five-Point Programme Unveiled

To Boost Supply of Skills by UAE Nationals to Labour Market

11 February 2015

Signalling its commitment to achieving the national development goals set by the UAE government, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with support from GEMS Education has proposed a five-point programme to help encourage nationals to supply their skill to the country’s increasingly competitive labour market. This programme is based on key findings in the recent report titled Better Schools, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Education and Skills Development in the United Arab Emirates. The report was presented at the Government Summit in Dubai.

The report is a step-by-step scheme to recognise challenges, create solutions, and maximise available resources, according to Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director & Board Member at GEMS Education. According to the report, it is necessary to identify those who are inactive in the labour market, encourage them to participate, and nurture their skillset throughout their careers to maximise their contribution.

“Skills have become the hard currency of our global marketplace,” said Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director & Board Member at GEMS Education. “It is essential that stakeholders across the UAE’s public and private sector support a cohesive action plan that encourages UAE nationals to use their currency so that we can maintain our competitive edge both now and in the future.”

The first step, according to the report, is to identify individuals who are not active in the country’s labour force and determine why they are inactive. Identifying and encouraging underrepresented groups to join the labour force has great potential to increase the UAE’s skills base.

Second, while women occupy some 66 per cent of public sector positions in the UAE, their participation in the private sector labour force could be expanded further. Government policies can help ease some of the challenges that many women face, including time constraints from family care obligations. With more women participating in the country’s labour force, productivity would increase and more growth opportunities would be created.

The third step outlined in the plan is to support people with disabilities to be involved in the labour force. For people with disabilities, it is necessary to ensure that their workplace is safe and that their employers are aware of their needs. The UAE has made great strides to ensure that people with disabilities have equal workplace opportunities. In 2006, the Federal Government passed the UAE Disability Act to ensure that people with special needs have the same right to work and occupy public positions as everyone else.

Fourth, it is necessary for stakeholders to tackle unemployment and proactively encourage younger people to join the labour force. Unemployment means that possibly valuable skillsets are idle and are not contributing to the nation’s economy. Though youth unemployment in the UAE is much lower than in some countries in the region, it is still vital to ensure that their full potential is utilised, as they have many years of productivity ahead of them.

The final step is to discourage early retirement. In the UAE, senior labour force participation is relatively high, with 70 per cent of people between the ages of 55 and 59 working, and roughly half of all 60 to 64-year olds still active in the labour force. To encourage senior workers to remain active, it is important to emphasise lifelong learning and special training earlier in their career to improve their future employability and discourage them from leaving the labour force early.

The report further explains that countries can foster the creation of new jobs and increase the demand for skills by encouraging entrepreneurship. This holds especially true in the UAE, which is committed to further diversifying its economy and lessening its reliance on the oil industry. Nourishing new businesses can be a highly effective strategy for creating new opportunities. Teaching entrepreneurship in schools, universities and vocational training centres can help to inspire and nurture an entrepreneurial culture. These programmes would help young people identify opportunities, turn them into successful ventures, and identify solutions to challenges that might stand in their way.

Efforts by the UAE government to foster entrepreneurship have already reaped very positive results, according to the report’s findings. In the World Bank's most recent Doing Business report, the UAE is not only maintaining its lead in the Middle East and North Africa region, but beating many long-established European and Asian economies.

“The process is quite clear,” Mr. Varkey said. “Getting the best returns on our investment in developing the country’s skillsets requires that we determine where we are now, then look ahead and determine which skills will be most valuable in the years and decades to come. Developing and using those skills effectively will lead to better jobs, a better economy, and will be key to realising the goals outlined in the UAE Vision 2021 plan.”