The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has implemented a policy known as Emiratisation, which aims to employ more Emirati citizens in the private and public sectors. This policy sets quotas for hiring Emiratis and provides various incentives for companies to meet these quotas.

Benefits of Emiratisation

Emiratisation rules have several intended benefits:

  •     Provide job opportunities for Emirati citizens

  •     Cultivate skilled Emirati professionals

  •     Support the national identity and economy

  •     Reduce dependence on expatriate workers

Key Components

The critical components of Emiratisation involve:

    Setting quotas: Companies must meet specific targets for hiring Emiratis, which varies by industry. Banks, for example, have a 4% quota.

    Offering incentives: Companies receive financial incentives, such as reduced fees on new visas, when meeting quotas. Fines can also apply for failing to hit targets.

    Nationalizing positions: Specific jobs and roles are sometimes reserved just for Emiratis.

    Providing training programs: Programs help equip Emiratis with skills needed for private sector jobs.

Major Industries Targeted:-

Some major industries and areas with notable Emiratisation efforts include:

  •     Banking and finance - Emiratisation rates over 10% now

  •     Oil, gas, energy - ADNOC aims for 75% Emiratisation by 2030

  •     Technology and engineering - Key areas where skilled talent is needed

  •     Healthcare - Building a solid base of Emirati doctors, nurses and professionals

  •     Aviation and logistics - Key economic growth industry

  •     Retail/commerce - Helping young entrepreneurs and supporting SMEs

Emiratisation Implementation

Responsibility for setting, meeting and enforcing Emiratisation quotas involves multiple governmental bodies:

  •     The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) defines overall strategy and policies.

  •     The Emirates National Development Programme (ENDP) collects data and sets specific targets.

  •     Tanmia focuses on recruiting and training Emirati job seekers.

  •     Other bodies like the Central Bank and free zone authorities also enforce rules.

Companies that fail to meet quotas face fines and penalties, while bonuses and reduced fees provide compliance incentives.

Companies Affected

Emiratisation rules apply across the board to thousands of companies and organizations in the UAE of varying sizes and sectors, including:

  •     Major domestic and multinational corporations

  •     Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

  •     Startups across technology, media and other spaces

  •     Retailers, hotel groups and restaurants

  •     Schools, hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers

  •     Free zone and local companies across most industries

Some exceptions apply, but most companies operating in the UAE need to meet set Emiratisation targets.

Criticisms and Challenges

While Emiratisation aims to spur economic growth and employment, critics argue that the policy has some downsides as well:

    Mismatch of skills: Many Emiratis need more skills for available private sector roles.

    Wage disparities: Locals earn significantly higher wages than expats in some cases.

    Productivity concerns: Perceived weaker productivity and work ethic of Emirati employees

    The increased cost of labour: Hiring Emiratis is seen as more expensive by some companies.

    Incentivizing the wrong behaviour: Fines lead some companies to meet quotas by hiring Emiratis without proper positions.

These issues result in challenges in meeting quotas for various companies, especially SMEs with limited resources.

Recent Changes and Growth

To address skill gaps and disparities, the UAE has recently:

  •     Expanded Emiratisation efforts in IT and technology.

  •     It focused more on advocating for Emiratis rather than on financing companies.

  •     Increased flexibility for struggling companies within limits.

  •     Launched high school apprenticeship programs in areas like finance.

These changes aim to fuel growth in Emiratisation rates across more fields through win-win partnerships between the government and the private sector.

Key Takeaways

  •     Emiratisation rules require companies in the UAE to employ set quotas of Emirati citizens.

  •     Government bodies set and enforce quotas, which vary across industries.

  •     Incentives encourage compliance, while fines apply to companies failing to hit targets.

  •     Recent adaptations address skill gaps to spur further Emiratisation growth.

  •     The policy aims for economic and employment gains but faces lingering talent and perception challenges.


Emiratisation has progressed substantially over recent decades. Quotas have expanded across more sectors as companies better understand the benefits of cultivating national talent.

As the job market and demands transform amid digital disruption, growing areas like technology and media present new opportunities to equip Emiratis with in-demand abilities. Schools and universities also adapt curriculums that align with future economic needs.

A balanced approach accounting for smaller players' challenges while coaxing larger entities to keep progressing can further boost Emiratisation if paired with educational development. This secures a vibrant economy and job market, benefiting Emiratis and residents long-term.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What percentage of Emiratisation is targeted across the UAE?

A: There is no fixed percentage, as quotas set by ENDP vary by industry. Some sectors now have targets over 10-15%. Certain industries are encouraged to "Emiratise" faster than others.

Q: What jobs are reserved only for Emiratis under the policy?

A: Select strategic or national security roles are reserved for Emirati citizens. These include positions within the government, at regulators like the Central Bank, and some director-level corporate roles.

Q: Do Emiratisation quotas apply equally to all companies?

A: The industry enforces rules uniformly, but larger players with more resources usually have an easier time hitting targets. Meanwhile, smaller companies can apply for exemptions and flexibility in certain cases based on merit and demonstrated challenges.

Q: How are Emiratisation rates and quotas tracked?

A: Tanmia maintains a detailed database tracking Emiratisation across companies. To demonstrate compliance, firms must submit regular reports on hiring, resignations, training and roles.

Q: What happens when companies fail to meet Emiratisation targets?

A: Penalties and fines apply when organizations fail to meet mandated quotas. In severe cases, repeated non-compliance can also mean losing access to valuable government services, transactions, and licenses.

Q: What types of incentives encourage companies to Emiratise?

A: The main incentives relate to reducing the fees firms pay for sponsored work visas. Banks also earn CSR credits for financing SMEs that are Emiratised. Increasingly, intangible benefits like positive PR motivate larger players.

Q: Are some industries struggling more than others to Emiratise?

A: Sectors like construction, retail and hospitality have yet to catch up with others. Recent adaptations mean more flexible and achievable targets for such struggling entities.

Q: What happens if an Emirati employee underperforms?

A: Probation periods allow firms to dismiss underperforming Emirati staffers. However, companies are encouraged to provide coaching and opportunities to improve productivity before releasing locals solely due to quotas.

Q: Can companies hire Emiratis even if quotas are met?

A: Yes, companies are encouraged by Tanmia and regulators to hire and train Emiratis even beyond minimum quotas. Incentives apply for organizations outperforming on Emiratisation.

Q: Are there any Emiratisation exemptions?

A: Startups and struggling SMEs can get temporary workforce quota exemptions of 1-3 years until growth stabilizes. Industries like agriculture also have lower targets for now. Approvals required.

Q: Does Emiratisation account for attrition and resignations?

A: Yes, regulators track separations. If Emiratis leave, companies don't get "penalized" again when hiring replacements. Net employment levels determine compliance.

Q: Are skilled Emiratis reluctant to work in the private sector?

A: Yes, historically, but improving private sector working cultures combined with more attractive pay are increasing openness. Public sector jobs remain coveted, though.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted Emiratisation progress?

A: The pandemic slowed momentum as cost-cutting and hiring freeze affected Emirati employment gains. But targets are rebounding.

Q: Are some Emiratis underemployed to meet quotas?

A: Unfortunately, yes, in a minority of cases. However, authorities are cracking down on unethical tactics and ensuring Emiratis fulfil meaningful roles aligned with their skills.

Q: How does Emiratisation benefit companies?

A: Hiring nationals enhances community standing, while incentives like visa fee reductions boost bottom lines. Locals also bring advantageous cultural fluency.

Q: What recourse is available if companies dispute fines?

A: Firms can submit appeals to regulators like MOHRE and Tanmia explaining the extenuating circumstances behind their compliance struggles. Evidence, such as finances, is often required.

Q: Are onboarding costs higher for Emirati employees?

A: Yes, a more significant initial investment in training, development, and compensation applies. However, this pays off long-term through enhanced employee loyalty and lower turnover.