There is still a big problem in the private sector where there are more working hours and fewer benefits.

With the government stepping up its Emiratisation programme, more needs to be done to ensure UAE nationals get the preference for jobs in the private sector, Federal National Council (FNC) members have said. Hamad Al Rahoumi, FNC member from Dubai, said stricter regulations on Emiratisation are needed and the existing law should be "firmly enforced" to make sure that eligible Emirati jobseekers are given top priority in employment, before issuing a work permit to non-Emiratis.

"I believe the government has done some work on Emiratisation. But it's not enough as the pace of Emiratisation plan is still slow. There should be more laws that give priority to qualified UAE nationals to fill the vacant positions in the private sector," Al Rahoumi told Khaleej Times on Wednesday. "We have to make it mandatory for all sectors, private or government firms, to offer vacant positions to those Emiratis who have the required qualifications for the job before considering expats. There is no way we can achieve the Emiratisation plan if we are not tough on employers."

Al Rahoumi, who served as the head of the House's Emiratisation Committee in the outgoing FNC, said he had already suggested creating a body in the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to look into all visa applications for professional jobs and that if there was an Emirati job-seeker who meets the job criteria and is registered with the ministry, the employer should be advised to hire the UAE national.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sultan Al Sammahi, former FNC member from Fujairah, said though the government has put in place different Emiratisation programmes, stricter regulations were needed to make the private sector recruit Emiratis in various leadership jobs. "There should be regulations obliging big companies - especially in the energy, finance and other sectors - to have at least 50 per cent of highly skilled and leadership positions for Emiratis."

Afra Al Basti, another FNC member from Dubai, said a recent survey by FNC members on Emiratisation in which she took part, found that the number of Emiratis in the private sector and some government firms was not satisfactory.

"There is still a big problem in the private sector where there are more working hours and fewer benefits," said Al Basti. "This makes the private sector jobs less attractive to UAE nationals."

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