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Workforce nationalization in the UAE: image versus integration

Ingo Forstenlechner (College of Business and Economics, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates)

Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues

ISSN: 1753-7983

Article publication date: 30 May 2008




This exploratory study aims to analyse the conditions under which Emiratisation – the process of nationalizing the workforce in the UAE – can enable organizations to capitalize on local human capital.


Relying on an initial literature review, this study is based on a series of interviews with UAE national as well as expatriate managers, both from the public and private sector. Questions for the semi‐structured interviews were based on a review of practice and policy‐oriented literature in order to further the understanding of the topic.


With limited literature available on the topic, the initial aim of this study was to identify HR processes relevant to Emiratisation, however, it soon became evident that success could be attributed to very basic decisions taken long before HR processes became relevant. This paper concludes that there are mainly two ways of approaching Emiratisation: one is an effort geared at producing statistics for PR or avoidance of negative consequences, the other is a serious commitment to the integration of UAE nationals into the workforce. Evidence from interviews suggests the choice between these two ways determines the chances for successful Emiratisation.

Research limitations/implications

The literature review proved difficult due to the relative absence of the topic in scholarly journals, therefore the author had to rely on commercial publications as much as on official statistics. Another limitation is the author's use of interviews leading to theoretical saturation earlier than expected.

Practical implications

The lack of honesty regarding the motivation to invest in Emiratisation is a significant hindrance for the overall success of such programs. The waste of time, effort and ultimately the waste of human resources resulting from Emiratisation programs meant to produce only statistics or avoid negative consequences mandate a reorientation of the approach towards Emiratisation.


This study aimed to be the first into Emiratisation related HR processes but was – due to preliminary analysis of interviews – refocused towards the commitment to Emiratisation.



Forstenlechner, I. (2008), "Workforce nationalization in the UAE: image versus integration", Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 82-91.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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