Under the Federal Law No. 8 for 1980 on the Regulation of Labour Relations (the “Law”), work is deemed a right of the United Arab Emirates (the “UAE”) nationals. Others, i.e. expatriates, may only work in the UAE in accordance with the conditions of the Law.
The Law states that the order of priority for fulfilling a recruitment requirement in the UAE is, firstly, those who are UAE nationals, secondly, workers that are nationals of other Arab states, and, lastly, workers holding other nationalities. Any non-UAE nationals that are to work in the UAE must first obtain a work permit.
Article 14 of the Law expressly prohibits the employment of nonUAE nationals in the case where there is a UAE national that can perform the role in question. Article 15 sets out three circumstances under which a non-UAE national’s work permit can be cancelled, those being: if the worker has been out of work for more than three consecutive months, if the conditions of the worker’s employment permit (i.e. those conditions under which it was granted) have been violated, or if it can be shown that a UAE national is qualified to replace such a worker.
A member of the Federal National Council (the “FNC”), Hamad Al Rehoumi, demanded the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation that the above provisions of the Law be firmly implemented. The FNC committee presented statistics that indicated that, in 2017, 10% of the total expatriate workforce filled administrative and financial posts in the UAE government; jobs which the FNC committee avers could have been filled by UAE nationals. The committee further reported figures that indicate an almost 40% reduction in UAE nationals employed by around 20 federal institutions in 2017.
A plethora of governmental initiatives has recently been announced to increase Emiratisation and thus reduce unemployment, particularly amongst the youth of the UAE, including by asking approximately 2,000 private sector entities to prioritise UAE nationals over non-UAE nationals for recruitment and the introduction of a requirement for a good conduct certificate when applying for a new resident’s visa.
Nasser Al Hameli of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation aims for these initiatives to make UAE nationals more competitive in the job market and facilitate the creation of 15,000 jobs suitable for UAE nationals in key sectors over the coming years, an increase of over 100% in comparison to the positions filled by UAE nationals in 2017.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation affirmed on 8 May 2018 that it may occasionally revoke the work permits of non-UAE nationals, which currently make up almost 90% of the UAE’s population, if they can be replaced by a UAE national. In order to assist the Ministry to make a decision either way, it is to set up a database of jobless UAE nationals that will be searched before a work permit is issued for a non-UAE national in government, semi-government and private entities, to ensure that a jobless UAE national could not fill the position instead.
Whilst an employer will not be forced to hire UAE nationals, it must at least offer them an interview that otherwise may not have been granted. If a UAE national is not given a position, an explanation for the decision should be given to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. If required, the Ministry will take steps to train the UAE national to make them more marketable in future.