A guide to Emiratisation

Job Seekers


Earlier this year, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation announced plans to activate Article 14 of the UAE Labour Law, which mandates the prioritising of Emiratis over expats in the hiring process. While Emiratisation has existed for over a decade, this renewed emphasis on hiring locally aims to increase the number of Emiratis in work and hence, their contribution to the economy. So what does this mean for your hiring efforts?

What inspired Emiratisation?

The concept of Emiratisation was introduced in response to a consistently high unemployment rate amongst locals – the latest official statistics, albeit from 2011, place overall unemployment at 13%, with this figure rises to 23% for 15-24 year olds.1

A report by the Federal National Council (FNC) identified 3.8 million jobs in the private sector, of which 800,000 can be filled by citizens. As it stands, only 20,000 to 30,000 Emiratis are employed in private businesses.2 This discrepancy can also be attributed to the general preference for public sector employment, as working for the government results in better benefits.

What does it involve?

There are a number of policies that fall under the Emiratisation umbrella. The most prevalent is a quota, which dictates that every company with more than 100 employees must recruit and retain a certain number of Emiratis. It was first introduced in 1996 in the banking industry, with the government determining that at least 4% of employees had to be local. However, in 2010, the Ministry of Labour announced that Emiratis should make up at least 15% of total staff.

Quotas also apply to companies that employ over 1000 workers, who must also hire Emirati citizens for any data entry positions, as well as construction businesses with more than 500 employees, who are required to employ one local occupational health and safety officer.

There are a number of benefits to hiring locally – companies that satisfy certain requirements can save on fees from the Ministry, as well as residency costs, airline tickets and health insurance.

What does this mean for hiring in the UAE?

For those looking to hire in 2019 and beyond, Emiratisation should be high on their agenda. The UAE government has announced that hiring for the sake of meeting quotas will be frowned upon, so hiring managers will need to make a concerted effort to recruit local talent that can contribute and grow in their organisation. As the private sector can offer significant potential for career progression, companies need to focus on building pipelines for local Emiratis, demonstrating how they can help them get to where they want to be. This focus on talent development will assist with both attraction and retention efforts, ensuring a long-term organisational culture that features both Emiratis and expats.

However, attracting the right talent is not without its challenges. With the public sector generally offering higher salaries for shorter working hours and no cap on pensions, private companies need to counter this, offering competitive salary and benefit packages. In the cases where salaries can’t be matched, businesses need to consider other attractive options, such as clear career progression, employee engagement and flexible working. Incentivising employees to stay within the company, with share options and legacy-in-service initiatives, are also worth considering for long-term retention efforts.

A recruiter can help conquer some of the challenges encountered in attracting Emirati talent. A great recruitment consultancy will have an ever-evolving database of fantastic talent, available both immediately and on notice. They’ll be able to pair your requirements with a shortlist of capable candidates, ensuring each one is both a personality and professional fit. They will also be able to provide advice on the market, advising on salary benchmarks and benefit strategies.


As specialists in Emiratisation recruitment, Tiger’s Dubai office can help you hire exceptional Emirati talent. Both our consultants have lived in the UAE for over 23 years and so have a unique understanding of the cultural sensitivities of hiring in the region. Get in touch today!

1. HTTPS://WWW.ARABIANBUSINESS.COM/UNEMPLOYMENT-RATE-AMONG-EMIRATIS-HITS-13–373135.HTML
2. HTTPS://GULFNEWS.COM/HOW-TO/EMPLOYMENT/EMIRATISATION-THE-ROAD-AHEAD-FOR-PRIVATE-SECTOR-1.1869180
Author Amy Tiger Recruitment Team

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