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Nepotism in the United Arab Emirates’ Business Essay

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Updated: Oct 10th, 2020


Nepotism is a deeply rooted and widespread practice in the UAE. It is viewed by many as an easier and quicker way of pursuing a personal or group agenda. Nepotism refers to favoring an individual on the basis of his or her social ties, nationality, or family relationships. It is inspired by the feeling of mutual trust. “Wasta” is the name that is commonly used in Arabic, Urdu, and other languages in Dubai to refer to nepotism. It is an acceptable and normal procedure within most of the businesses in Dubai. This is because the practice is deeply rooted in almost all sectors of the UAE economy and society (Kindsiko, 2013).

Nepotism in the UAE

Nepotism is widely practiced in business and media-related events. The event organizers always invite professional speakers who are either their relatives or close associates. This leaves little room for diversity in such events that have gained publicity in the UAE today. Nepotism is so even in UAE that the preferred speakers in business or media events are not adequately qualified to discuss the subject of the event. This is because they always advocate for specific ideologies and principles through various platforms that they are privileged to use when sharing their ideas. Furthermore, the constant faces that dominate these events create a monotonous environment that fails to gather the interest of the audience (Sidani & Thornberry, 2013).

Nepotism is also dominant in the advertising industry (Plaisance, 2009). Poor regulation of the advertising industry is largely blamed for this practice. In addition, nepotism is exhibited in the awarding of advertising campaigns or projects to small firms. For instance, unreasonable amounts of commissions are paid to the preferred business associates at the expense of other firms that provide similar services in a better way (McDonald & Pak, 1996). Most of the creative art directors insist on working with their relatives, friends, or acquaintances. In addition, most firms in the UAE perceive nepotism as a survival mechanism.

This practice is deeply rooted in the business community in the UAE. Businesses families in the country, and more especially in Dubai, perceive nepotism as a way of enhancing the success of their business dynasties. The family businesspeople argue that nepotism creates mutual trust, loyalty, honesty, and commitment to the business. They also point out that relatives and other acquaintances are the only people who can guarantee these virtues. Relatives and acquaintances are perceived to be capable of sustaining the business than the non-family associates. The business community views nepotism as a way of saving time and money. They base their argument on the fact that the cost of employee recruitment and training is very high (Garofalo, Geuras, Lynch & Lynch, 2001).


Deontology refers to integrated ethics and moral duties, obligations, responsibilities, and commitments. It is a theoretical judgment of the morality and ethical actions by referring to the existing rules. First, nepotism interferes with the virtue of fairness in society. For instance, people who do not merit to be appointed are favored at the expense of qualified individuals (Shaw, 1999). Furthermore, nepotism is an ethical challenge because it interferes with the norms of superior service that is expected in the business community. Relatives and close associates may not be competent to execute their duties diligently and productively. It is also argued that nepotism violates the economic and social rights of individuals. In addition, it weakens the people’s trust in public or private institutions, thereby, destroying the laws of the market economy (Whetstone, 2001).

Deontological ethics protects the integrity of a firm (Plaisance, 2009). It ensures that individuals adhere to professional rules and regulations and avoid mistakes that can violate the public trust in the firm. Deontology specifies the rules that regulate the conduct and behavior of professional and private bodies. Deontological ethics and norms are enforced by individuals from the state or private sectors.


Utilitarianism is an ethical approach that evaluates the morality of people’s actions basing on its consequences. The goal of utilitarianism is to justify the consequences of an action and the means through which it is achieved. In this case, it can be argued that nepotism is right because of the role it plays in providing jobs to people. In addition, utilitarianism justifies nepotism on the grounds that it helps small businesses to sustain themselves (Solomon, 1992).

Natural law

Natural law is found within the society in an immanent form. It originates from a transcendent source. It is a way of creating orderliness through reasons (Christians & Traber, 1997). Despite the fact that it neither receives authority from legal enactments nor judicial decisions, it is considered as a binding upon which the entire human society is anchored. This is due to its transcendent origin and the commonality that exists among all men. The natural law theory of ethics posits that human beings have evolved through Darwinian processes. They became creatures that are able to use the functionality of the reasons and processes of communication to satisfy their natural desires and wants (Arnhart, 1998).

It is further argued that an individual’s natural desires and needs are universal across humanity for it makes mankind flourish. Nepotism fits in the natural law theory because it is led by an innate feeling for durable family structures, which can help raise enough resources for the growth and well-being of children. The innate human desires that we hold result in moral constraints such as nepotism. It is argued that strict moral impartiality is impossible for human beings. This is due to the morals or sense abilities that we possess. They occur as a result of our social instincts that are primarily directed towards our immediate families.


Arnhart, L. (1998). Darwinian natural right: The biological ethics of human nature. SUNY Press.

Christians, C. G., & Traber, M. (1997). Communication ethics and universal values. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Garofalo, C., Geuras, D., Lynch, T. D., & Lynch, C. E. (2001). Applying virtue ethics to the challenge of corruption. Innovation Journal, 6(2), 1-12.

Kindsiko, E. (2013). (Dis) honesty in organizations: Ethical perspectives. Advanced Series in Management, 10(1), 19-35.

McDonald, G., & Pak, P. C. (1996). It’s all fair in love, war, and business: Cognitive philosophies in ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(9), 973-996.

Shaw, W. H. (1999). Contemporary ethics: Taking account of utilitarianism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sidani, Y., & Thornberry, J. (2013). Nepotism in the Arab World: An Institutional Theory Perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(1).

Solomon, R. C. (1992). Corporate roles, personal virtues: An Aristotelean approach to business ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 2(3), 317-339.

Plaisance, P. L. (2009). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Whetstone, J. T. (2001). How virtue fits within business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 33(2), 101-114.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Nepotism in the United Arab Emirates' Business." October 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nepotism-in-the-united-arab-emirates-business/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Nepotism in the United Arab Emirates' Business'. 10 October.

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