October 11, 2023

Emiratisation in the UAE: What You Need to Know

Emiratisation is an initiative by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to employ its citizens in a meaningful and efficient manner in the public and private sectors. The UAE aims to build a competitive knowledge economy by providing training, skills development, job opportunities and legal provisions for Emiratis. In this article, we will cover what Emiratisation is, why it is being enforced, what it means for businesses that are hiring, how it can benefit businesses, and how it benefits employees and UAE nationals.

What is Emiratisation?

Emiratisation is a term that refers to a set of policies and initiatives that aim to increase the participation of Emirati nationals in the country's workforce and reduce the country's reliance on expatriate labour. Emiratisation was and continues to be one of the hot topics in the UAE, particularly in light of the promotion of foreign investment into the UAE and the relaxation of restrictions on foreign ownership.

Emiratisation has been a priority for the UAE government since the early 2000s, but it gained more momentum in recent years with the introduction of various schemes and programmes to boost Emirati employment in both public and private sectors. Primarily in 2023 they are focusing on private sector Emiratisation as it has fallen behind the public sector somewhat. Some of the schemes used include:

  • Tawteen: A programme launched by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MHRE) in 2017 to provide career guidance, training, incentives and support for Emiratis seeking jobs in the private sector.
  • Nafis: A comprehensive federal programme launched in 2021 as part of the UAE's "Projects of the 50" to drive work opportunities for both young and experienced Emiratis in the private sector. Under Nafis, the UAE will spend up to AED 24 billion, (USD 6.53 billion) to employ 75,000 Emiratis in the private sector over 2021-2025. It aims for Emiratis to hold 10 per cent of the UAE’s private sector jobs by 2025.
  • Ministerial Resolutions: A series of legal provisions issued by MHRE to regulate and monitor Emiratisation rates in the private sector and impose contributions on non-compliant establishments.

Why is Emiratisation being enforced?

Emiratisation is being enforced for several reasons, such as:

  • Economic diversification: The UAE government aims to reduce its dependence on oil revenues and develop other sectors, such as tourism, trade, technology, health care, education and renewable energy. To achieve this, it needs a skilled and qualified workforce that can contribute to these sectors and drive innovation and growth.
  • Social development: The UAE government also seeks to improve the living standards and well-being of its citizens by providing them with more employment opportunities, income security, career development and social integration. Emiratisation also helps preserve the national identity and culture of the UAE amid its diverse and multicultural population.
  • Demographic balance: The UAE has one of the highest expatriate-to-national ratios in the world, with expatriates accounting for about 88 per cent of its total population. This poses challenges for social cohesion, national security and labour market stability. Emiratisation aims to achieve a more balanced demographic structure that reflects the aspirations and interests of both nationals and expatriates.

What does Emiratisation mean for businesses that are hiring?

Emiratisation means that businesses that are hiring in the UAE need to comply with certain requirements and regulations regarding Emirati employment. These vary depending on the size and sector of the business, but generally include:

  • Emiratisation quotas: Businesses with 50 or more employees are required to increase their Emirati workforce in excess of their current quota through a 2% year on year increase until they reach 10% in 2026. The actual number of Emiratis required will be calculated according to the overall number of skilled workers in the company. For example, a company with 100 skilled workers will need to employ two Emiratis.
  • Emiratisation categories: Businesses also need to ensure that they hire Emiratis across different skill levels and categories, ranging from category 1 (highest) to category 5 (lowest). Category 4 now requires certification; an example of a role that falls within category 4 is security guard.
  • Emiratisation compliance: Businesses need to ensure that they comply with all labour regulations regarding Emirati employment, such as issuing work permits and contracts, registering them with the applicable pension authority, paying them through the Wages Protection System, providing them with training and development opportunities, and retaining them for at least six months.
  • Emiratisation monitoring: Businesses need to report their Emiratisation data and progress to MHRE on a regular basis and cooperate with its inspections and audits. Businesses that fail to meet their Emiratisation targets or obligations may face penalties, such as fines, suspension of work permits, or exclusion from government contracts and incentives.

How can Emiratisation benefit businesses?

Emiratisation can benefit businesses in several ways, such as:

  • Access to talent: Emiratisation can help businesses access a pool of talented and qualified Emirati candidates who can bring value to their organisations. Emiratis have the advantage of being familiar with the local culture, language, market and regulations, as well as having strong networks and connections in the UAE. Emiratis can also offer diverse perspectives and insights that can enhance creativity and innovation.
  • Access to incentives: Emiratisation can also help businesses access various incentives and benefits offered by the UAE government to support Emirati employment. These include subsidies, grants, tax exemptions, preferential treatment in government tenders and contracts, and recognition and awards. These incentives can help businesses reduce their costs, increase their revenues, and improve their reputation and image.
  • Access to opportunities: Emiratisation can also help businesses access more opportunities and markets in the UAE and beyond. By hiring Emiratis, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to the UAE's vision and goals, as well as their social responsibility and contribution to the country's development. This can help them build trust and loyalty with their customers, partners, stakeholders and regulators, and open up new avenues for growth and expansion.

How does Emiratisation benefit employees and UAE nationals?

Emiratisation benefits employees and UAE nationals in several ways, such as:

  • Employment opportunities: Emiratisation provides more employment opportunities for Emiratis in the private sector, which is more dynamic and diverse than the public sector. Emiratis can choose from a variety of sectors, roles and levels that suit their interests, skills and aspirations. Emiratis can also enjoy more flexibility and mobility in their careers, as well as more exposure and experience in different fields and environments.
  • Income security: Emiratisation also provides more income security for Emiratis, especially in times of economic uncertainty or crisis. Emiratis can benefit from competitive salaries and benefits that are comparable or higher than those offered by the public sector. Emiratis can also benefit from the pension system that guarantees them a stable income after retirement.
  • Career development: Emiratisation also provides more career development opportunities for Emiratis in the private sector. Emiratis can access various training programmes, courses, workshops and mentoring schemes that can help them enhance their knowledge, skills and competencies. Emiratis can also access various career advancement opportunities, such as promotions, transfers, rotations or secondments that can help them grow professionally and personally.
  • National pride: Emiratisation also provides more national pride for Emiratis, as they can contribute to the UAE's economic diversification, social development and demographic balance. Emiratis can play an active role in shaping the future of the UAE and achieving its vision of becoming a leading global hub for innovation, excellence and happiness.

How can Prism 7 help with Emiratisation in your Business?

It is a strategic goal for many businesses in the UAE to improve their Emirati workforce balance, as it can bring benefits such as enhanced cultural diversity, improved customer service, increased loyalty and retention, and social responsibility. However, finding and hiring qualified Emirati talent can be challenging for some businesses, especially in sectors that are traditionally dominated by foreigners. That's where we can help. Prism 7 Resourcing are a recruitment business that have experience sourcing and placing Emirati candidates for various roles and industries. We have a large network of Emirati professionals who are looking for new opportunities and career growth. We also have a deep understanding of the local market and the cultural nuances that affect the hiring process. We can help businesses with Emiratisation by providing them with the best Emirati talent that matches their needs and expectations. We can also assist them with the onboarding and integration of Emirati employees, ensuring a smooth and successful transition. Whether you are looking for fresh graduates, experienced managers, or senior executives, we can help you find the right Emirati talent for your business. Speak to our team for more information on how we can help boost your Emirati talent.


Emiratisation is an important initiative that aims to increase the employment of UAE nationals in the public and private sectors. It has various benefits for businesses, employees and UAE nationals alike. However, it also poses some challenges and requires some adjustments from all parties involved. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to understand the requirements and regulations of Emiratisation, as well as the best practices and strategies to implement it successfully. It is also essential for employees and UAE nationals to understand the opportunities and expectations of Emiratisation, as well as the skills and attitudes to embrace it effectively.

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