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Khalid Al Ameri: Work in the UAE: When status matters more than impact
April 06, 2015
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Emiratis are a proud people, and a big part of that pride lies in the story of how we came to be as a country, and how far we have come in such a short period of time. We talk about our history with such passion, especially about how our humble beginnings are still a big part of our culture today, like the things we eat, and the way we dress.

However a lot more has changed versus what has remained. Massive villas have replaced huts made out of mud and leaves, the new ships of the desert are SUVs rather than camels, and fine dining is more likely to include a night at Zuma over a tray of rice and goat under the evening stars.

Another more important aspect of life that has changed is the way we work. Furthermore our view of what constitutes as work and contribution to our country, our families, and ourselves, has changed dramatically.

Before the discovery of oil 'formal' work was incredibly scarce, and our ancestors did whatever it took to survive. Work meant months on end at sea fishing or diving for pearls, hours on end trading in the local markets, basically if it paid they did it. No work was below them.

Now fast forward to 2015 and it seems like almost any work that doesn't include an office in a recognised government organisation is looked down upon by our society, and in many cases our own families. The funny thing is a lot of the criticism regarding non-traditional work is coming from the generation that lived a lot closer to the times that poverty and hardship swept our nation.

How did all this come to be? Now I understand that the wealth of natural resources has brought with it great riches and comforts. However it seems to have wiped out our sense of work ethic and how we define work in the process. We seem to have forgotten all the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get where we are today.

One definition of work that resonates with me is when it is defined as an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.” There are two words that I would like us to focus on in that definition, effort and result. When it comes to work the formula usually goes something like this, when we put forward our greatest effort it usually creates the best results.

Great effort with regard to work comes in all shapes and forms, it can be the passionate baker down the street, the motivating fitness instructor at your local gym, or the friendly street cleaner you see on your way to work every morning. Picture what life would be like without them, now picture each of them being Emirati. I am willing to bet that you had the picture of a foreign Arab, a European, and a Southern Asian in your head.

Who are we to judge people who are working hard each and every day to survive just like we did not too long ago? Who are we to judge Emiratis who follow their hearts and believe they can have a greater impact in a field that doesn't carry a fancy title or a big corner office? They deserve our support, not our criticism.

Everyone has a role to play in the betterment of our lives and our country regardless of the perceived status of their profession. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and the message that we want to give the next generation. Do we want them to feel entitled to a certain status of work? Or do we want them to feel empowered to have an impact on their country regardless of the path they choose?

We are quick to talk about national pride and how we love our country, but showing our national pride is what truly counts. Actions speak louder than words, tweeting our love for the country, or taking to the streets to celebrate National Day, means nothing if we are not willing to work hard for the country that has given us so much.

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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.

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