Original Research

Political economy and citizen empowerment: Strategies and challenges of Emiratisation in the United Arab Emirates

Paul Thompson, Henry Wissink
Acta Commercii | Vol 16, No 1 | a391 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v16i1.391 | © 2016 Paul Thompson, Henry Wissink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 April 2016 | Published: 27 September 2016

About the author(s)

Paul Thompson, College of Law and Business and Management Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Henry Wissink, College of Law and Business and Management Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa


Orientation:  The United Arab Emirates’ labour market by design is inclined to exclude generally the Emirati population from active participation in the private sector, in order to take advantage of cheap labour primarily from South Asia.
Research purpose: The aim of this article was to explain, using labour market segmentation theory, how the present epoch of free market capitalism in the ‘minority state’ of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has socially excluded its’ citizens.
Motivation for the study:  The pro-national Emiratisation or employment policy project implemented by the federal government in 1998 provided an opportunity for UAE citizens to be fully absorbed in the private and public sectors. Researching the process as it unfolded, insights are unearthed as to why Emirati citizens are still on the periphery of the country’s labour market.
Research design, approach and method:  The article employed a qualitative methodology using the UAE as a single case study.
Main findings: The research on the UAE’s Emiratisation or labour nationalisation policies found that there are a number of systemic and structural barriers that have hampered the successful implementation of government policies in both the private and public sectors.
Practical/managerial implications: Policy makers need to be able to differentiate between the systemic, structural and institutional factors that have stymied government’s attempt at addressing the country’s demographic imbalance and the social exclusion of Emirati citizens from the labour market.
Contribution/value-add: This research has filled a gap in literature on the theme, and has also deviated from earlier research findings on the barriers to achieving policy targets.


Emiratisation; Nationalisation; Emirati; GCC; Demographics; Flexi-curity; Rentierism; Mudīr Syndrome


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