The UAE’s Nafis programme, launched in September 2021 to boost Emirati participation in the private sector, has yielded impressive results in just two years. Nafis programme refers to employee programmes, with ‘Nafis’ being the arabic term for “employee. The programme aimed to have 10 per cent of private-sector jobs held by Emirati citizens by 2026.
Under the Nafis programme, Emiratis employed in the private sector are entitled to salary enhancements to bridge the income gap typically found in the public sector. The UAE is committed to fostering a significant Emirati presence in the private sector, recognising its pivotal role in driving economic growth and development.
Currently, over 82,000 Emiratis work in non-public sector roles, an increase of 52,000 since the programme’s inception, surpassing the 2022 figure of 50,228. Nafis has also created an additional 34,000 job opportunities for Emiratis and engaged 17,000 companies in hiring Emirati workers. Moreover, 61,000 citizens have benefited from monthly financial support programmes designed to encourage private sector employment.
As part of a nationwide initiative, companies in the UAE are required to increase their Emirati workforce by one per cent every six months. Employers with a workforce of at least 50 members are expected to achieve a 4 percent target by year-end. The Emirati employment rate will progressively rise to 6 percent in 2024, 8 percent in 2025, and finally, 10 percent in 2026.
Notably, companies with 20 to 49 employees will need to meet specific hiring quotas for Emiratis, employing at least one by 2024 and another by 2025. Strict penalties have been imposed to deter manipulation of these government-set targets and avoid financial consequences.