National jobless rate tops 19%

The UAE has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Middle East but joblessness among its own citizens exceeds 19 per cent, far above the average given their preference of the public sector, official statistics have shown.

The overall unemployment rate stood at around 4.3 per cent at the end of 201, almost unchanged from the 2009 average and one of the lowest in the Arab world, showed the figures by the National Bureau of Statistics.

But the rate was as high as 19.8 per cent among nationals although they account for only about a fifth of the country’s total population, the figures showed.

Unemployment among the dominant expatriate population stood at only around 2.9 per cent in 2010, equivalent to the 2009 average, the report said.

A breakdown showed unemployment among local and expatriate women is much higher than male joblessness, with the national female rate standing at 27.5 per cent against 16.9 per cent among Emirati men.

Unemployment among expatriate women stood at around 8.5 per cent while the rate among expatriate men was as low as two per cent.

According to the report, nearly 65.2 per cent of the UAE’s total population of about 8.2 million are economically active but the level is again far lower among nationals, standing at 43.9 per cent for men and 17.1 per cent for women.

In the expatriate community, which exceeds 80 per cent of the overall population, the rate was put at 80.2 per cent for men and 36.8 per cent for women.

The figures showed employed male and female nationals stood at 36.5 and 12.4 per cent respectively and employed foreigners at 83.8 and 33.6 per cent.

On the education front, those holding the secondary school level certificate had the highest joblessness rate of 6.1 per cent while the rate among holders of a university degree was estimated at about 4.4 per cent.

It stood at four per cent among those with preparatory school certificates, 3.8 per cent among the primary level, 0.8 per cent among those who just can read and write and 1.4 per cent among the illiterate.

Geographically, rural population had a much higher unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent against 3.5 per cent among the urban population.

In a recent analysis of the job sector in the country, a UAE official estimated that over 40,000 Emiratis at work age are jobless, boosting the national unemployment rate to its highest ever level.

Abdullah Al-Awadi, a consultant at the National Human Resources Development and Recruitment Authority (Tanmia), said the surge in the local unemployment rate was a result of a continuous influx of expatriate labour and obstacles in the implementation of job nationalization plans.

“The UAE society, like other Gulf societies is suffering from an unemployment crisis that is moving in an upward line because of the continued surge in expatriate workers and difficulties in the implementation of the job nationalization programmes,” he said in an article published by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

Awadi said job nationalization is still far lagging behind targets in both the public and private sectors, with the ratio of national workforce in the public sector stabilizing at around 44 per cent through 2008.

He said the level is low considering what he described a series of government laws and decisions to raise that percentage.

“This situation is mainly because of an influx of expatriates to the UAE…if the policy of recruitment in the public sector remains as it is, then it will be very difficult to achieve a balance between the national and expatriate labour in the public sector in the future,” he said.

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