Public-private sector parity planned

The UAE is working to reduce the differences in career incentives between the government and private sectors according to Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Labour, quoted by Emarat Al Youm newspaper.

He asserted that the government is promoting the participation of Emiratis in the private sector to meet the numbers expected to enter the labour market within the next two decades.

He added that initiatives and studies are being developed in order to reach the best formula so as to achieve the goal through broad community participation.

Ghobash confirmed that the ministry is currently developing a policy to improve and increase the salaries of the UAE citizens in the private sector.

He pointed to what was said by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, that the government sector wages are at least three times higher than in the private sector.

This means there are substantial differences between the two sectors, and without a radical change, the private sector will not be attractive to the Emiratis.

Ghobash pointed out that the proposal of the ministry is to intervene by determining the minimum pay which is recommended by the World Bank and McKenzie studies.

“This intervention can take two forms - either specify a minimum wage without any government support to the private sector which means that the private sector will be the only body to bear the costs of increased wages for targeted jobs.

The second suggestion is to determine the minimum wage but with government support in order to increase the turnout of job seekers on the private sector.

“The ministry has concluded that the most appropriate way is to provide support for a period of about two years and after that the employers themselves will take their responsibilities,” said Ghobash.

Meanwhile, job security provided by the government sector contributes to the reluctance of citizens to work in the private sector. The ministry proposes to address this issue through submitting a kind of unemployment insurance which is different from unemployment allowance.

He added the insurance against unemployment required that the citizens are obliged to enter the labour market for a period specified by law.

He added the Emirati and the employer will pay a monthly subscription in a fund to be established for this purpose.

“A citizen terminated can benefit from the insurance fund against the risk of loss of employment. This differentiates between the unemployed person who was forced to leave work, and the other who does not wish to work.”

The Minister of Labour affirmed that the other challenge which the ministry is doing its best to eliminate it the differences in official holidays between government and private sectors.

The difference is up to 57 days per year in favour of the government sector.

“The ministry proposes to overcome this challenge through the equality of holidays in both sectors and grant of two-day weekend to private sector as adopted in government departments.”

He disclosed that this will led to increase in daily working hours in the private sector from eight to nine hours.
“Thus private sector employers will bear difference of only three hours per week which make this proposal more acceptable to the private sector”.

He stressed that the government would not impose on the private sector to hire a citizen who is not qualified for the job.

He added the government recognizes the existence of a problem and though the magnitude of the problem may not be worrisome, we have to deal with it and work to root it out.

“After 42 years of the foundation of the UAE, the number of citizen employees in labour sectors within the state is about 225,000,” said Ghobash.

He explained that the number of jobseekers is almost 30,000 citizens with 15,000 in Abu Dhabi, and 15,000 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Not all enrolled job seekers are unemployed ones but include retirees and workers, and others who wish to improve their jobs.

Ghobash anticipated that the number of citizens coming into the labour market within the next 10 years will be nearly 15,000 a year, according to studies.

Accordingly, the number of national manpower in the year 2020 would be about 405,000.

He also added that the number of persons who will join the labour market will rise to 20,000 citizens annually to 200,000 over the following decade.

That will raise the number of national manpower to  605,000 by  2030, which reflects the challenge the government would face.

According to a study conducted by the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR), new jobs in the Federal government sector do not exceed  2,000 a year.

The Abshar programme is providing about  5,000 jobs a year and this will be increased as the the Abshar programme can accommodate a larger numbers of unemployed in the joint sector institutions.

The minister pointed to the seriousness of resorting to hidden unemployment as part of the solution.

The minister revealed that the number of workers in the private sector now stands at about 4 million, that includes only 22,000 citizens, according to the latest statistics prepared by the ministry late last year.

He added 65 per cent of those 22,000 citizens are working in the banking sector, which is closest to the government sector in terms of salaries and career incentives and holidays, as well as because of special efforts of an emiratisation committee headed by Ahmed Al Tayer.

He mentioned that there is a negative perception among citizens about working in the private sector. There is as well a gap in skills of citizens which is not consistent with the needs of the private sector.

“The absence of job security, and the differences in privileges between the private sector and the government sector, especially the number of weekly holidays and public holidays are main reasons behind such negative perception,” said Ghobash.

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