The UAE government employees are switching to the private firms, as both sectors now offer the same timing, flexibility and pay, according to senior Emirati officials working in the public and private organisations.

During a panel discussion senior officials said that government employees are switching to the private sector in search of career progress and growth opportunities, noting that UAE nationals used to prefer the public sector.

According to the latest data shared by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the number of UAE nationals in the private sector have increased by 170 per cent to 96,000 since 2021.

“There is a kind of healthy competition between public and private sectors and we both learn from each other. The public sector has become quite similar to the private when it comes to timing, flexibility, and compensation. Today, both the sectors have flexibility, similar timings and policies,” said Sarah Al Bakeri, vice-president for human capital at Tabreed, at the second edition of “Making Emiratisation a Success Guide for 2024."

The panel was conducted by staffing and HR solutions firm TASC in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) on Monday.

She noted that the public sector used to offer higher compensation and less work sometime back, while private firms used to give less monetary compensation and require longer work hours. But the Covid-19 pandemic was a “moment of realisation” as the private sector started focusing more on work-life balance by promoting flexible options such as remote working.

As part of the Emiratisation drive to induct more UAE nationals into the private sector, the MoHRE has been encouraging and giving incentives to private firms to recruit a certain – but smaller – percentage of skilled workforce. Companies that don’t adhere to the law will be penalised.

Previously, public sector employees used to enjoy more holidays every year. But the government made the public holidays similar for both sectors a few years ago.

Raising salaries to match the private sector
Huda Al Abbar, head of human resources at the Department of Finance at the Government of Dubai, said the only advantage that government employees used to have was fewer working hours two years ago, hence, people used to prefer to come to the government. “But today, I would say it is similar. We are competing against each other. It is a different competitive advantage everyone has. In the end, we are in one boat competing for the good talent,” she added.

Al Abbar further explained that they also faced challenges and highlighted those to the Dubai Government’s Human Resources with possible solutions.

“We faced a challenge last year to attract fresh graduates due to salaries that were offered by the private sector. Nafis is a federal initiative designed to enhance the competitive edge of UAE National human capital and facilitate their integration into the private sector workforce. So we enhanced pay structure and increased entry-level salary of the fresh graduates,” she said during the panel discussion.

Employees moving from government to private sector
Maryam Al Maeeni, vice president for Emiratisation and tour guide at Dubai College of Tourism – Department of Economy and Tourism, said perceptions of working in the government sector are changing and there is huge interest among Emiratis to join the private sector.

“I know personally many of the government employees moved from government to private sector and the main driver was not salary. Emiratis are very ambitious and look toward having more career opportunities and progression programmes, " she said during the panel discussion.

"Companies should focus on building career progression plans, learning opportunities, and mentorship programmes as well as building an inclusive workplace culture which focuses on valuing the contribution of UAE nationals. It is not just about compliance with Emiratisation targets and policies, it is much more about valuing the contribution of Emiratis to the success of the company,” she added.

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