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Nafis Program: Empowering Emirati Nationals to work in the private sector

  • Legal Development 30 November 2021 30 November 2021
  • Middle East

  • Employment, Pensions & Immigration

The Nafis (meaning to compete in Arabic) program was launched on 13 September 2021 as part of the UAE’s ‘Projects of the 50,’ and aims to support Emirati nationals to pursue their professional careers in the private sector.

Against an ambitious target of creating 75,000 jobs in the private sector by 2025, the program has a number of different strands by way of support to Emirati nationals seeking either to enter the workplace or to develop their career. It is also open to private sector employers essentially to partner with the UAE Government to facilitate employment opportunities and to increase the number of UAE nationals in their organisation. Alongside Nafis, the UAE Government has announced a general target of 10% Emiratisation in the private sector by 2025 in skilled and knowledge-based roles (with the current requirement being 2% for commercial organisations).

Eleven initiatives have been announced as part of the Nafis scheme (with nine being currently operational); these consist of the following:

Career assistance 

  • Career counselling: Emirati nationals will be given career advice and coaching in order to enable them to direct their careers.
  • Apprentice program: This consists of twelve months vocational training with a private sector employer whereby the individual will receive a training allowance (and this also assists the employer to provide these programs).
  • Healthcare professionals: This program aims to develop 100,000 Emirati healthcare workers in the next five years. 
  • Recruitment portal: This initiative consists of a unified job posting platform whereby Emirati nationals are connected with private sector employers who have signed agreements with Nafis to take part in their various initiatives. 

Salary subsidies

  • Emirati salary support scheme: This initiative has two main provisions: a) a top up payment of AED 5,000 a month for those already in employment (potentially payable for a total period of five years); or b) a payment of AED 8,000 a month to new graduates on training programs in the first year of employment.
  • Merit program: This initiative is open to specific professions being nursing, accountancy, financial auditors, lawyers, financial analysts and coders) with a top up payment per month linked to individual earnings as follows:
Salary per month  < 20K 20K - 30K 30K - 40K 40K -50K 50K >
Top-up AED 5,000 AED 4,000 AED 3,000 AED 2,000 None

Pension subsidy

Under this initiative, the Government will pay (on a rebate basis) state pension contributions for newly employed Emiratis for the first five years of employment if they earn less than AED 20,000 a month, as follows:

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Employee 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Company 0% 2% 4% 5% 6%
Government  20% 18% 16% 15% 14%

Support measures

Within Nafis, the following initiatives are aimed at generally supporting UAE nationals in pursuing their careers:

  • Child allowance: Emirati nationals may claim up to AED 800 per child up to a maximum of AED 3,200 per month to help with child related expenses for children up to the age of 21. The amount of the allowance is linked to the employee’s salary.
  • Unemployment benefit: If an Emirati national loses their job beyond their control they can claim up to six months of unemployment benefit. 

Alongside these initiatives, a supporting structure has been established to facilitate these programs with the establishment of an Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council. This Council is tasked with engaging with federal representatives and implementing the various strands to Nafis. Support to graduates setting up start-ups is also envisaged, as is a plan to encourage those employed in the public sector to take up opportunities in the private sector (and potentially move to early retirement from the public sector). Further, UAE nationals currently employed in the federal government can apply for sabbaticals at 50% of their salary, for six to twelve months to enable them to start their own businesses in the private sector.

Nafis offers an ambitious and exciting range of options for both employers and Emirati nationals. One key consideration for employers is access to these programs to support their employment of Emirati nationals with the caveat that they must subscribe to achieving 10% Emiratisation.

For further information about the Nafis programme, click here.

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Year of the 50th series | Transforming the UAE legal landscape