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UAE minister explains using Nafis scheme correctly, as firms take undue advantage

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Top official clarifies if the federal programme is the only way to hire Emiratis; details salary support, unemployment benefits offered

The UAE’s Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation has explained how companies can benefit from the Nafis scheme — a federal initiative to increase the competitiveness of Emiratis and empower them to occupy skilled jobs in the country’s private sector.

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Dr Abdulrahman Al Awar was responding to a question posed by Khaleej Times after some companies were found misusing the benefits offered by the scheme.

Last month, Dr Al Awar issued a warning after it was found that the companies were reducing the salaries of Emirati jobseekers. These firms reportedly told the Emirati applicants that they would be paid less since the Nafis programme would give them salary top-ups anyway when they get hired.

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In another instance, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) initiated administrative action against an Emirati employer who appointed 43 family members to inflate Emiratisation numbers and benefit from the Nafis programme.

The Nafis programme encompasses a wide range of financial incentives to drive work opportunities for both young and experienced Emiratis in the private sector, Dr Al Awar explained. “Under the programme, the UAE aims to increase the number of Emirati beneficiaries from 75,000 to 170,000 in the next five years.”

However, faking Emiratisation numbers to get Nafis benefits is punishable with fines ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh100,000 for each bogus Emirati employee.

Companies in the UAE with 50 or more employees are mandated to annually raise their Emiratisation rate by 2 per cent of overall skilled jobs. From January 2023, a monthly fine of Dh6,000 will be levied for every Emirati who has not been hired. This works out to Dh72,000 annually.

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The minister explained how the Nafis programme offers a “unique opportunity” to private sector companies, including banking, financial and insurance sectors, and free-zones, to benefit from the incentives “that integrate the national talent into the private sector”.

“This offers the private sector higher levels of flexibility and greater opportunities to grow,” he said.

Is Nafis the only way to hire Emiratis?

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Private sector companies can register on the Nafis platform, create an account, and submit vacancies and training opportunities for Emirati jobseekers.

The process will help them attract, train, and retain national talents while benefiting from Nafis’ support and enjoying a package of incentives and privileges offered by the MoHRE.

However, hiring Emiratis can be done through any verified and reliable platform, the minister said.

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“Given the wide-ranging database of Emirati jobseekers registered on the Nafis platform, we recommend posting the vacancies on this platform,” said Dr Al Awar. “On the other hand, using Nafis to hire Emirati talent helps accelerate the processes of approvals of the benefits as the platform is electronically linked with other entities in the UAE, including the Federal Authority For Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security, the pension authorities and others.

“This electronic link ensures governing the disbursement of support provided by Nafis programme to Emiratis working in the private sector, as well as those who enrol in training programmes in private companies.”

Nafis benefits explained

Emiratis in the private sector enjoy a package of benefits through Nafis. It includes several initiatives, such as a five-year government-backed pension programme.

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“The government bears 100 per cent of the pension fund contributions on behalf of employers, with gradual decreases during the remaining four years of the pension fund contributions for many categories of nationals working in the private sector.

“There’s also the unemployment benefit, which provides temporary financial support to the UAE nationals who lose their jobs in the private sector due to circumstances beyond their control,” the minister said.

Emiratis also benefit from the Nafis programme during the on-job-training period for a full year, offering them a monthly reward of up to Dh8000.

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The salary support scheme was recently enhanced, with an increased subsidy for five years to Emiratis working in the private sector.

Explaining the system, the minister said: “Those with a salary less than Dh20,000 will be receiving up to Dh7,000 (university graduates); up to Dh6,000 (diploma graduates) and up to Dh5,000 (high school or less than high school graduates). Those with a salary between Dh20,000 and Dh30,000 will be getting up to Dh3,500 (university graduates); up to Dh3,000 (diploma graduates) and Dh2,500 (high school or less than high school graduates).”

The UAE aspires to have the Emirati workforce play an integral part in the success of the companies they join in the private sector.

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“Creating strong partnerships between the public and the private sector is one of Nafis programme’s main objectives, besides creating equal job opportunities so that that the private sector becomes a key driver of the economic development in the UAE,” the minister said.

Boosting the appeal of private sector for Emiratis

Traditionally, Emiratis are known to prefer the public sector over the private one. However, this trend is changing, thanks to effective policies implemented by the government.

“The Emiratisation drive is supported in two ways. The first is to expand the jobs available to the UAE nationals in the private sector, while the second is aimed at providing financial and non-financial support to Emiratis and incentives to the companies that support them in their career paths, hence retaining them in this vital sector,” Dr Al Awar explained.

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