First Published in Gulf News our contributor Peter Hatherley Green highlights some of the issues faced with raising Arab Men in the region.
Part 1: Background
From 2011-2012, I conducted full-time PhD research in Fujairah, UAE, to investigate the problem of low engagement and motivation observed among male Emirati school-leavers as they entered a post-secondary federal university system in the UAE to study using their second language of English.
The results were published in three peer-reviewed academic papers, three formal conference presentations (UAE, Oman, and Nepal), numerous paper presentations at regional universities and institutes (Zayed University, Emirates College for Advanced Education, Middlesex University, Emirates Foundation, German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce), and a published book.
The most accessible paper that presents the key findings of my research is found on the Al Qasimi Foundation website. I am not the only researcher, either local or international, who have produced similar findings. One of the most noted local researchers, Dr Natasha Ridge of the Al Qasimi Foundation, has written numerous insightful papers on the worrying state of Emirati young men, citing excessive high school drop-out rates and low participation in higher education to name but two.
What I discovered was a social and educational system failing its young men, severing internal drivers (effort, work) from external rewards (salary, income), and in the process, creating a cohort of individuals who seem entirely lost in the modern 21st century world in which they live. Aghast at the thought of working in the private sector due to unrealistic expectations around time and task management, and cultural and gender sensitivity to others in the workplace, the men continue to head for the relative safety and security (financial, cultural, emotional, linguistic) of public sector employment, often following in the footsteps of their fathers.
As presented in many published articles in The National newspaper and LinkedIn, the young men are not to blame for this situation. It is rooted in the post-oil discovery era (1950s onwards) and the great affluence that it brought to a country and people very unused to wealth and prosperity.
And in ordinary times, the problem would continue to be absorbed and resolved through recruitment into public and semi-public sector ministries and organizations.
But these are no longer ordinary times. The Government itself has signaled an end to the oil era and while low international oil prices in recent years have not hit public spending particularly hard, certainly not enough to curtail or cancel social benefits offered to Emiratis as citizens, it has been enough to begin to question the rationale, leading to strategic discussions about diversification.
It is imperative now more than ever that all Emirati school-leavers, both men and women, are sufficiently skilled and resilient to independently manage the rigours of living and working in a complex, multi-cultural society, very different to the one their grandparents were born into.
And very clearly, it is the men who appear to be struggling the most.
Emirati women have been heading to post-secondary higher education in droves for over two decades, to both federal and private universities and colleges. And while they contribute the most numbers to the unemployment rate, they do so partly by choice and partly by cultural constraints that prevent them from fully engaging in the private sector. Even when they choose to remain at home and raise a family, they often form small home-based businesses with other like-minded Emirati women.
They are taking advantage of every opportunity offered to them. After graduation, many Emirati women start their own businesses in the private sector and some have had spectacular success.
Their role in modern Emirati society has been confirmed through the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
However, in one telling quote from his book “Flashes of Thought“, Sheikh Mohammed cautions the men by saying, “Beware, men, lest women deprive you of all the leadership positions in the country.”
And so, I am drawn increasingly back to my research and intimate knowledge of Emirati men, having taught, counseled, and trained them for all of my 23 years in the UAE. And the question I ask myself the most is, “what’s going on with the men?”
I think the core issue at the heart of this problem is the way Emirati boys are being raised in the modern 21st century family, a world away from the days when the Trucial States were never coveted by other nations and where its people survived in conditions intolerable to most others, enjoying the “safety of the undesired“.
Dr Peter J. Hatherley-Greene, Director of Learning, at Emarise
Emarise has a particular interest in Nationalisation efforts in the UAE, assisting both Emiratis and private sector companies and organisations to facilitate smoother recruitment and onboarding of Nationals that leads to improved long-term retention.
Backed by doctoral-level research which described the difficult cultural border crossings experienced by young Emiratis as they make the transition from high school to colleges and universities of higher education, Dr. Peter Hatherley-Greene, Emarise Principal and Director of Learning, has over 22 years’ experience working with organizations in the GCC on cultural-change and specializes in supporting organizations to overcome the unique challenges and to capture the opportunities which Emiratization presents.