Emiratisation in the Education Sector
Ivor McGettiganPartner,Employment & Incentives
Noor JamaluddinParalegal,Employment & Incentives
Emiratisation is now a key issue for all private sector employers. K-12 schools in particular are feeling the brunt of large fines. The issue is rapidly becoming top of the agenda for the sector.This article looks at the background to the initiative, challenges and the road ahead.
The UAE government’s Emiratisation push in the private sector commenced last year . In summary the position is as follows:
The minimum Emiratisation rate for the private sector education companies with more than 20 employees is set at two percent annually, with the goal of achieving at least 10% UAE national employment in the private sector by 2026.
The Emiratisation percentage is cumulative, and the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (‘MOHRE’) actively started imposing fines on non-compliant employers since 1 January 2023. The fine is AED 6000 per month (in 2022) per quota position not filled by a UAE national. This fine increases by AED 1,000 each year.
Although MOHRE amended the mechanism of achieving the Emiratisation targets with the aim to help private companies to achieve these targets, i.e. achieving one percent every six months, international schools operating in the UAE have encountered significant challenges in meeting Emiratisation targets when it comes to employing qualified teachers.
One of the main challenges international schools face is aligning Emiratisation goals with stringent certification and qualification requirements for their teachers. International curricula mandate specific teaching certifications that do not align with the qualifications held by UAE national candidates. The vast majority of UAE national schoolchildren attend public schools and therefore, when they consider Higher Education options, are not considering undertaking teacher training courses in foreign curricula.
Generally speaking, about 80% of a school’s staff are comprised of its teachers. Given the position outlined above, it leaves schools in a position where they would have to achieve the two percent Emiratisation quota from the remaining 20% of staff (administrative, HR, IT, facilities management, etc.) meaning an effective Emiratisation rate of 10% for non-teaching positions. Schools experience difficulty in finding UAE nationals to fill these non-teaching positions.
To achieve the Emiratisation quotas set for the private sector workforce, the government is working on various strategies to create a favourable environment for UAE nationals. One major such initiative is the Nafis programme.
The Nafis programme offers various benefits and career development options to UAE nationals working in the private sector. For instance, the UAE government will support the salaries of UAE national employees working in the private sector by offering a salary top-up which is calculated based on the difference between the employee’s current monthly salary and the designated salary for each qualification category. It will also cover some pension costs for the first 5 years.
The programme also offers a temporary financial aid for UAE nationals who lose their job due to circumstances beyond their control. Eligible UAE nationals will be also able to benefit from a monthly child allowance (AED 600 for each child (maximum of four children) for a period of five years).
That being said, there is a worldwide shortage of international curriculum teachers. A teacher-training course in the UAE, where national and non-national teaching candidates could enrol, would be a very welcome addition to address the shortage generally as well as Emiratisation specifically.
The private sector sees Emiratisation as not just a regulatory obligation but an opportunity to build a diverse, culturally rich, and inclusive educational landscape that benefits both UAE nationals and the global community within the UAE.
The challenge lies on the supply side- there are virtually no UAE national teachers trained in a foreign curriculum and also little demand for non-teaching jobs.
Therefore, in the short to medium term schools will have to adjust their financial model to include MOHRE fines. For the medium to long term, it is hoped that the initiatives mentioned above will address the issue and lead to a greater supply of UAE nationals in the private education sector.
In the meantime, it is imperative to meet the Emiratisation targets. Furthermore, MOHRE has implemented strict regulations to prevent the circumvention of the Emiratisation initiative. For instance, companies that change the professional classification of their workers, i.e. from a skilled to an unskilled category, or purposely reduce the number of workers with the intention to circumvent the prescribed Emiratisation targets, will be subject to a fine of AED 100,000 for the initial violation, or AED 300,000 for a second violation, or AED 500,000 or more for a third violation and the employer will be required to meet the Emiratisation targets based on the status of the company prior to the violation.
For further information,please contact Ivor McGettigan and Noor Jamaluddin.
Published in September 2023
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