Last week I laughed out loud to read that a group of Emiratis lodged an official complaint
because they were laid off by their employer. One of the sacked Emiratis said: "Emiratis should be protected through legislation during such hard times. We should have these rights as UAE citizens. I find it strange that we should lose jobs in our own country."
Can you imagine making that argument in the US? "Hey, you can't lay me off! I'm an American citizen!"
Well, I'm not laughing anymore: the UAE just made it illegal
for a private company to lay off an Emirati if there's a non-Emirati doing the same job. So, say your company's widget-maker, Sanjeev, is overworked so you hire an Emirati, Abdullah, to make widgets too. Then widget sales decrease and you have to lay one off. Surprise! It's now illegal to keep Sanjeev.
Additionally, according to the Financial Times
, "private companies will only be able to dismiss UAE nationals for serious misconduct, including, among other reasons, absenteeism, theft or drunkenness." Despite the fact that Dubai's economy is pretty much in free-fall
, "The economic downturn will not be reason enough to make Emirati staff redundant."
What about Emiratis who don't engage in "serious misconduct" but who simply aren't doing their jobs? They can't be fired either, "but must be given more training or transferred to work more suited to their skills," reports The National
. I'm desperately curious to see how that would pan out: "Sorry, Abdullah, but we've determined your skills are more suited to a different role. The mop's in the hall closet."
For all their desperation to make sure their citizens are gainfully employed in the private sector, the Gulf governments seem to do a spectacular job creating dis
incentives to hire locals. Emiratis were already pretty much unfireable, and now they're un-layoff-able, too: if I were hiring Sanjeev's assistant, why on earth would I hire an Emirati? As always, the government's approach is to make hiring a local extremely burdensome and then require companies to do it anyway, instead of to offer incentives that would make hiring a national inherently appealing.
Amazingly, though, the UAE government thinks the new law will actually incentivize hiring Emiratis! According to that The Nation article,
Feddah Lootah, the acting director general of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), said Emiratis would feel more secure in their jobs knowing they cannot be laid off. As a result, they will "increase their productivity, performance and loyalty". Companies will become aware of that trend and will recruit more Emiratis, she said.
Um, yeah. Nothing increases a worker's performance and loyalty more than knowing they have a job for life no matter how much they screw up!