Are Emiratisation Quotas Hurting Businesses?

I read this article written by an anonymous senior HR director based in the Middle East on an e-commerce website, so I am posting it as I am sure there is a lot of food for thought and many of our readers will agree with some of the points made:
Companies across the Middle East are under pressure to hire and promote locals, but someone has to say it: UAE nationals aren’t up to senior roles.
It’s not their fault. Not enough effort has been put into developing them.
The Middle East has traditionally been reliant on a Westerners who have the skill to run large organizations, but that well is running dry. Those Westerners are retiring and when they’re not retiring, they don’t relish the prospect of training up locals who will eventually take their jobs.
If nationalisation has worked, this shouldn’t be a problem; by the time expats leave, there should be enough skilled locals to to replace them.
Local candidates are, however, being given too much responsibility too soon, and young national inductees generally leave soon after being taken on, when they realise that  a lifetime in industry or banking is not for them.
Many nationals when hired by quota don’t have the skills to take on the role – they were just taken on to fulfil a quota – nor do they have the inclination to learn as is often the case in any society. They’ve been hired at a point in their lives when they want to leave education, but are being transported from the school classroom into the banks’ lengthy training courses. This does not fill many with joy, so they simply leave.
Most young nationals are also lured by the cushy government jobs, where responsibility is low, pay is high and holidays are long. The vast majority don’t even consider working in other fields such as banking or private sector.
The government needs to do more than just imposing quotas; it’s a policy that suggests if you throw enough potential at the organisation, some of it will stick. It’s not exactly a scientific approach.
Also spare a thought for the HR and development teams tasked with the recruitment and training of nationals in the industry sector. They’re stuck in a ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario – find, interview, induct and train, then all too soon exit the young nationals. Then repeat.
Every attempt to replace them means that HR is fishing in a pond that is rapidly diminishing in size, and much less well-stocked. What’s more industry is increasingly reluctant to put their hands in their pockets. This means being forced to take a chance on someone who may well be a few years away from comfortably filling the vacancy.
Companies need to advise the government on what’s really possible. Education and career development for students needs to be addressed, as does the option of vocational training.
Oman is streets ahead of its GCC counterparts in replacing expats with locals, after ensuring the right training was available to them. This should provide a good example for Saudi, the UAE and Qatar about what’s coming their way, but there’s still an awful long way to go.
The author is a senior HR development director, working in Dubai

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