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The UAE has experienced a quantum leap from just a loose collection of tribes since in 1971 to a wealthy state worth recognition. Despite the robust economic performance the country faces challenges with its native populace. The priority three is demographic imbalance, unemployment rate as well as development of human capital.
According to Patrick (1) the UAE has yet to develop the concept of a nation as manifested by the increase in the public debate approaches to guard the national identity through amicably defining who is a national. The UAE has operated on social openness with Islam that is tolerant to heavy modernization and influence by international environments.
Some scholarly assertions in the UAE argue the bases of national identity as an Emirati not tied to indigenous populace or aborigines from UAE. Unlike other countries in the Middle East that have a historical struggle for their own determination or expansionism linked with the Western colonizers, the GCC states have faced complications in developing national identity models.
Al-Suwaidi (45) views that politics in the UAE rest upon the governance pretext of explicit and implicit consent under the old Lockean principle where the ruling regime serves on the premises of universal acceptance of the incumbent and approach to government.
This permeates both inter and intra-Emirates as well as the federal levels. The governing class has laid more emphases on procedural set up of national institutions and systems than focus on development strides in the country’s politics.
While citing literature, Patrick (2) explains nationalism in the UAE as positive turning inward vis-à-vis negative turning outward. This nationalism concept has been entrenched in the Emiratisation policy. In order to push for the nationalism agenda some of the policies in Emiratisation are regulatory than subsidiary.
Emiratisation has advanced nationalism avenues on financial empowerment, religious and cultural issues assist in developing of skills as well as creation of professionals. Towards this end, the federal government set up a National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (TANMIA) charged with enhancing skill development as well as hiring of nationals into the work force.
The national population imbalance
Koji (41) notes that the federal government of the UAE has faced a challenge in its demographic composition. The government realized that influx foreigners were creating a population imbalance between national and expatriates, which disadvantaged the locals seeking national opportunities; thus, has led to crisis in defining national identity.
As part of the national labour policy, the government has embarked on affirmative action of replacing foreign workers with native ones to enhance the employment for the local work force, while lessening expatriate pool.
Koji (43) observes that the overall population is 8 million people with foreigners making up 87 percent; moreover, the work force in the private sector constitutes about one percent of natives. The oil boom that drove the process of national economic development attracted foreign workers in the UAE since the 1970s to service huge labour gaps since at the onset the nationals were few vis-à-vis the employment opportunities.
This initial economic development effort in the 1980s intended to widen revenue sources away from the oil sector bases; however most of the employment opportunities fitted expatriate skills.
The unemployment rates among the nationals
The UAE is experiencing an increment in the youth population among nationals and a positive correlation with unemployment rates. Koji (43) views that some non-oil sectors in the UAE like manufacturing, services as well as construction have created labour opportunities, which have not attracted the nationals on the bases working conditions. This is creating room for expatriates to cease the opportunities to fit in.
Nonetheless, the nationals tend to prefer government based jobs vis-à-vis private sector. Projections on the trend of the labour market estimate that by 2015 more than a quarter million of nationals will be unemployed with four-fifth of this being the youth. As part of giving nationals a priority within the private sector and in specific in banking sector the Decision No.
8 of 1998 by Cabinet that demand each premise to hire at least 4 percent nationals within its workforce. The government is also pursuing efforts on diverse nationalities within a workplace as opposed to cheaper labour that favours influx of foreigners.
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This will at the end lead to increase in the infiltration of nationals into the workforce. Moreover, there is increased attention on the movement of non-nationals within the country. Al-Ali (38) notes that about a tenth of Emiratis in private have left employment citing difficulties with working in a multicultural setting as a hindrance to human capital formation, particularly the female gender.
There are gender related issues specifically among the women’s subgroup. Al-Ali (13) observes that gender development has come with new challenges for Emirati women, which need national assistance. Cultural changes have led to low of fertility rates, especially number of children per Emirati women.
In the wake of achieving gender equity in nation building, Emirati women are experiencing delayed childbearing and a commitment to acquiring higher education knowledge while attending to household matters.
Traditionalists lifestyle that thrived on more births to propagate family as well as tribal status are facing huge challenges now that Emiratis is called upon to participate actively in the country’s human capital in the economy amid competition from expatriates. Affirmative action has led to more women taking up employment opportunities.
In the public sector, women constitute about two-fifth of the workforce in the education sector, a third in health as well as a fifth in the social affairs. Interestingly, affirmative action has led to more women joining higher education and gaining necessary qualification across professions thus beginning career life and earning a living (Al-Ali 13).
The more women that join the post secondary education have benefit to their contribution to the human capital development because of the shift in the social attitudes.
In conclusion, the UAE has presented as a fair model of a nation that has used its natural endowment to diversify and modernize its state, while ensuring there is equality in benefits for natives as well as the rest of the world.
The application of the old Lockean principle implies that the nation appreciates that influence of globalization by tapping benefits and preserving traditions with adverse impacts the country’s history.
Furthermore, institutionalizing the challenges facing nationalism through TANMIA is evidence that the government has concern for developing national economy that directly benefits nationals through affirmative action.
This is engendered on issues arising from cultural and religious barriers, financial capacity as well as skill and professional development. Some scholarly quarters have the feeling that the country has not yet fully addressed its definition of national identity.
Al-Ali, Jasim 2008, Structural Barriers to Emiratisation: Analysis and Policy Recommendations. PDF file. 15 Feb. 2008. <http://vuir.vu.edu.au/15483/1/al_ali.pdf>.
Al-Suwaidi, Abdulla. “The United Arab Emirates At 40: A Balance Sheet.” Middle East Policy. XVIII.4 (2011):44-58. Uaeinteract. Web.
Koji, Horinuki. “Controversies over Labour Naturalisation Policy and its Dilemmas: 40 Years of Emiratisation in the United Arab Emirates.” Kyoto Bulletin of Islamic Area Studies. 4.1(2011 ):41–61. Asafas. Web.
Patrick, Neil 2009, Research Paper, Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States. PDF file. 15 Feb. 2008.