Monday, September 7, 2009

Selling Private Service and Retail to Emiratis


The sight of young Emirati men and women working as fishmongers and bakers or checkout assistants and shelf-stackers is very unusual.

The jobs are normally filled by Dubai's massive foreign workforce.

Emirati workers in the retail sector are still a minority within a minority.

Nationals constitute less than 20% of the total population and according to some researchers make up less than 1% of the private sector workforce.

This is because employers in the emirate have found it notoriously difficult to attract young nationals into the private sector.

They mostly favour working in the public sector - which offers more pay, far fewer working hours, longer holidays and security.

There is also the issue of prestige. Working in a supermarket still carries, for many Emiratis, a stigma.

But the Aswaaq stores are providing an unlikely setting for a cultural revolution.


This is a step in the right direction. Once retail and service are no longer stigmatized, perhaps there will be more fair treatment and better compensation for those professional classes. And when "management" is not seen as the only/primary career path for Emiratis, they will have more incentive to diversify their skill acquisition towards more "hands-on" type careers.

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