The fastest growing economy in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—with Dubai ranked 29th in 2011 in the Global Financial Centers Index worldwide—has a private sector capable of creating tens of thousands of new jobs every year (Al Ali, 2013). Yet, many Emiratis prefer to remain unemployed rather than work in the private sector, contributing to an unemployment rate of nearly 12% (Sharif, 2013). Many Emiratis prefer to remain unemployed rather than work in the private sector because private sector salaries are perceived to be lower than public sector salaries. Sharif (2013), supported by Toledo (2013), adds that unemployment will increase as an estimated 13,000 Emirati college graduates enter the workforce each year and raise to the number of first- time Emirati job seekers to over 200,000 (nearly 25% of the entire Emirati population) within 10 years.
This paper uses the findings of a recent study on family involvement in Emirati college student education to show how families contribute to the development of the attitudes, beliefs, and opinions of young people, some of which prove counter-productive in the workplace. According to Al Ali (2013), through the mid-2000s, Emiratis entering the workforce had little difficulty securing positions in the public sector, which paid high salaries and required only a basic education. However, by the late 2000s through the time of this paper, Al Ali, along with Sharif (2013) and Toledo (2013), found that in order to enter the workforce, Emiratis needed at least a college education and that there were few opportunities to work in the public sector. This paper explores the social and cultural factors that influence many young Emiratis to avoid considering positions in the private sector. The paper gives recommendations on how educational institutions and labor policy makers can join forces to reshape young Emiratis’ attitudes, opinions, and values by raising their awareness of their need to obtain higher education credentials and to work in the private sector. These institutions and policy makers can also initiate programs in the workplace and throughout the educational environment of post-secondary institutions and schools.