UAE Unemployment Is High, but Not for Lack of Jobs

Even the Gulf countries were not spared by the European and U.S. debt crisis. With unemployment figures estimated as high as 12 percent, the United Arab Emirates has lots of gaps to fill, Saqr Ghobash, the minister of labor for the UAE, told Tuesday.

Photo source: AP

"Even if the GCC countries have been affected by the crisis, the level of employment in the UAE in terms of numbers far exceed the needs for the nationals," he said.

Indeed, he noted, open jobs stay vacant in the country as the level of skills in demand does not meet the skills offered by the national population.

"Most jobs are low skills and low paid ones," as well as labor-intensive, Ghobash said. And these types of jobs "are ones that the UAE citizens don't seek."

However, the country does "have 800 thousand jobs to offer that are characterized with medium and high skills levels," he added.

The skill sets of workers and wages also split the jobs market between the private and public sectors.

"We are facing two key challenges," Ghobash said. The first is that "wages are much higher in the public sector," he said, and the second is that the public sector offers stronger job security.

He also said the country has set an "active labor market program" in order to work on the issue.

One option the Emirates pursued is the "subsidy of wages for the private sector," Ghobash said, but the minister said his government is working "on the relation between employers and close the skill and wage gap."

At the same time, the country has been looking to the rest of the world to develop.

"Over the past few years, and even since before the crisis, the UAE has been building infrastructures to increase the quality of life for expats, and increase the competitiveness in order to attract not only capitals, but also businesses," Ghobash said.

These investments "gave the Emirates the advantage," he said, "because it turned into a regional hub."