The United Arab Emirates will spend AED24 billion ($6.5bn) on a package of benefits and subsidies designed to reduce citizen employment by making private sector-jobs more attractive.

As in much of the Gulf, the UAE government is the employer of choice, with many college graduates rebuffing offers from private companies while they wait for state jobs with better pay, benefits and working hours. Millions of foreigners from all over the world currently fill most private-sector jobs.

The measures are designed to help close the gap between the public and private sectors as the government aims to absorb 75,000 citizens into private-sector jobs over the next five years.

“A decent life for our citizens, their children and the generations to come remains our greatest priority,” said President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. “Working with the private sector to enhance career prospects is the way to ensure that those opportunities endure for decades to come.”

The new announcements include grants for students and fresh graduates to take up private sector roles, an AED1bn graduate business development fund, a government-backed new private sector child allowance and unemployment benefit, as well as career break and early retirement schemes for Federal government employees starting new businesses.

Announcing the new initiatives, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, said: “As we mark our fiftieth year as a nation, we are evolving from building world-class national infrastructure to creating brilliant sources of value and human capital. Our people are our pride and our future and we are investing to build the ideas and aspirations of our youth to create new futures in our successful business, trade and knowledge economy.”

The programme will be managed by the newly created Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council, a body chaired by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

The initiatives include the Emirati Salary Support Scheme, a one-year salary support of up to AED8,000 per month paid to Emiratis to incentivise the recruitment and training of graduates in private sector companies. A monthly support of up to AED5,000 will be paid for up to five years.

The Merit Programme gives a monthly AED5,000 top-up to Emirati workers in specialised fields, including nurses, accountants and financial auditors, commercial lawyers, financial analysts and coders; while the Pension Programme provides a subsidised five-year government-paid contribution on the company’s behalf against the cost of pension plans for Emirati staff and full support for the Emirati’s contribution across the first five years of their employment.

The AED1bn Graduate Fund, to be implemented in collaboration with UAE universities, is to be dedicated to giving microloans to final year university students and fresh graduates in order to support them in exploring new business start-ups.

The Private Sector Child Allowance Scheme, the first childcare allowance in the Emirates, is a monthly grant made to Emirati staff working in the private sector of up to AED800 per child up to a maximum of AED3,200 per month to help with the costs of childcare up to the age of 21.

A new scheme will support unemployment benefit to be paid to Emiratis working in the private sector who lose their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control, giving them a six-month period to find another position.

Unemployment rose to 5 percent in 2020 from 2.2 percent a year earlier, according to the latest estimates from the World Bank, which didn’t break out citizen joblessness.

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