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Khalid Al Ameri: Emirati youth must learn to value hard work
January 26, 2015
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Recently Al Bayt Mitwahid (Arabic for, “Our House Is United”) conducted a survey on UAE youth about their views on issues surrounding well-being, career and quality of life. The results were interesting and not that surprising on the high end where 80% of young Emiratis had national pride as a top value, and gave their happiness a score of 8.7 out of 10. This is continued proof that the UAE has and continues to spare no effort in ensuring the prosperity and stability of its citizens.

Where things got a little uncomfortable for me were issues that young Emiratis valued the least according to the report, namely work ethic where only 13% of Emirati youth ranked it as a value. What adds a little more perspective to the survey is only 10% of Emirati youth wanted to work in the private sector, and a mere 2% were considering entrepreneurship as a potential career option.

Why do things make more sense when I add the lack of interest of Emiratis for the private sector and entrepreneurial jobs? Well because working in the government sector is traditionally easier than working in the private sector or starting your own business.

However a young lady, an expatriate who worked in the private sector, and attended the survey event said something that got a lot of nodding heads from the crowd, “Emiratis want to work in the government sector because they feel it’s the best way they can give back to their country”. That comment was such a breath of fresh air as for once it shifts the focus from the traditional argument of better pay and working hours that attract Emiratis to the government sector.

What the survey also showed is that just 36% of Emirati youth valued “ambition”. Given the strong sense of national pride I don’t think the youth lack ambition, but that their ambition is tightly linked to the direction our country is going in. In a sense they are willing to trade off their personal ambitions for our national ambitions, along with the vision our leaders have set for where we want to be in 5, 10, or 15 years down the line.

I feel that authorities now have a job ahead of them to bridge the gap between our youth’s strong value of national pride, and their weak value of hard work. Our youth need to understand that the best way to show national pride is by giving back to their country with their efforts. In addition government authorities need to increase communication at schools and universities around the importance of the private sector and entrepreneurship on our economic development, and how our youth must play a pivotal role in those sectors.

Find any Emirati and ask them about their country and their leaders, they love their country, they love their leaders, and they want nothing more than to make them proud. Going forward it’s simply about educating and informing them that the best way to do that is through hard work.

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The author is a columnist on education and youth development

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