ICT, Human Capital Development and Emiratisation of the Labour Market in the United Arab Emirates

Omar Al Qubaisi

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The UAE’s labour market policy of Emiratisation is intended to replace expatriates with local workers by imposing restrictions on the employment of expatriate workers in the public sector and enforcing the private sector to employ nationals in certain types of jobs. This policy has been focused rather narrowly on administrative jobs in the finance and oil sector, and has not addressed the newly emerging ICT sector which is a cornerstone of the government’s long-term economic growth strategy. Moreover, strategies such as the Emiratisation policy and investment in the ICT sector are not currently taking place within the context of a proper analysis of labour market needs and problems.

    The main aim of this study is to make a significant contribution to the knowledge base from which a sustainable national human resource policy in the UAE can be developed, by exploring the current barriers to successful working environments, and by assessing how the Emiratisation policy can be redesigned to focus more on new high-growth sectors, especially the ICT sector. The study also contributes more generally to the field of knowledge about how human capital supply can be improved through policy interventions and technology implementation. Furthermore, by adopting a conceptual framework based on established labour market and social network theories, the study is expected to improve understanding of the UAE economy and potential solutions to current labour market problems, thus offering considerable practical value to UAE decision-makers and policy officials.

    The study employs a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the relationship between human capital and ICT with special emphasis on harmonization. This is a mixed-methods study consisting of both quantitative and qualitative primary research data collection, as well as a review of literature. The quantitative research method used a semi-structured online questionnaire survey targeted at managers in the Oil/Gas and Banking/Finance sectors, future job-seekers (students), and other UAE labour market stakeholders and experts. This was followed up by in-depth interviews with ICT expert informants, to provide qualitative data. The results of the quantitative and qualitative components were integrated in a process of triangulation, to draw out their overall significance.

    The principle finding of this research is that the mismatch between the supply and demand sides of the labour market in terms of skills and expectations is the main barrier to emiratisation. High percentages of Emirati students do not enter the labour market following graduation. UAE nationals have high job and salary expectations, and mainly focus on the public sector. Employers surveyed believe that the types of skills and qualifications they need are in short supply among UAE nationals, especially in relation to managerial and professional jobs. The cultural importance of contacts makes the recruitment process inefficient on both sides. Emiratisation can be expensive for organisations, would be more sustainable if compliance were better enforced by the UAE government, and needs to be better supported by a good education/training system which prepares UAE nationals for the needs of the labour market. The study concludes by advocating a gradual shift towards the knowledge economy as a way of rebalancing the labour market, proposing potential further research on the ICT field within the UAE’s private sector, with close attention to indigenization. On the demand side, more detailed nationally representative data might be collected on the skills requirements of private sector jobs in a range of sectors, so that the UAE education system can be better designed to meet the needs of the economy through human resource development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Royal Holloway, University of London
    • Rosenberg, Duska, Supervisor
    Award date1 Jun 2012
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


    • Emiratisation
    • labour markets
    • Human Capital
    • ICT

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