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SMEs champion equal employment opportunities in the UAE, reveals MEED study

UAE. Women are just as likely as men to find employment in small and medium-sized businesses in the UAE, according to the latest research by business intelligence company MEED.

Of the more than top 50 SMEs in the Emirates which participated in the study, 50 per cent said they employ an equal number of women and men in their organisations. About 40 per cent even reported having a majority of women on their payroll compared to men.

MEED compiled inputs from SMEs in the UAE as part of this year’s edition of the Gulf Capital SME Awards. The awards recognise outstanding small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as exceptional business leaders and entrepreneurs.

The study shows a step forward for the adoption of equal employment opportunity practices, and highlights SMEs as spearheading the efforts across the UAE.

Earlier this year, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the formation of the “UAE Gender Balance Council”, a federal body that aims to boost the Emirates’ efforts to evolve and enhance women’s role as key partners in building the future of the UAE.

The council will be chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who in a statement said, “The impact of a significant female presence in leadership roles has wide-ranging benefits on the economy, on governance, and on society at large. The UAE has always worked to dismantle barriers that create tension between the genders. We have a great opportunity to uncover new paths that we may walk on together”.

Another interesting highlight of the research indicates a growing number of young professionals are now employed by SMEs, with 47 per cent of respondents saying many of their staff are aged under 30.

Amidst these positive developments, the study also found that an overwhelming majority of SMEs consider recruitment to be one of their top 3 challenges, with  62% saying they have found it “very difficult” to find the right talent to fill  available positions in their companies.

Becky Crayman, Head of Awards, MEED, says, “While the UAE has become a hub for many from around the world, it seems there is still a mismatch, at least in the SME business sector, between available jobs and the experience and expertise of people based in the UAE.”

Alex Marr, Managing Director, Xeratek Document Solutions, a finalist in the Gulf Capital SME Awards in 2012, sees recruitment as one of the biggest barriers to business growth saying, “We have seen our business grow in the past two years. Our expanding presence throughout the UAE requires the employment of suitable staff to fill in available positions.

“This has certainly been a big challenge, but something that we have been able to manage so far. It is not just the availability of qualified staff that is a major concern, but also the ability to attract suitable talent to work for an SME. Business owners need to be creative in incentivising potential recruits as well as existing talent to help support current operations and future growth.”

In last year’s edition of the awards, SMEs who were shortlisted for the DHL People and Culture of the Year category showed how small businesses could successfully recruit and retain talent against bigger companies with much more competitive benefit packages. All finalists have in-house training programmes and professional development plans; others boost staff morale and reward excellent performance with foreign travels, gifts, internal recognition programmes, as well as modest financial bonuses and even profit-sharing.

Whilst recruiting qualified staff has put some pressure on SMEs, the MEED report also highlights an equally important issue that small business owners must address – only about 20% of SMEs interviewed for the report have hired UAE nationals. The rest have either no Emirati employees, or unable to recruit one.

“While we as an organisation are fully supportive of the government’s Emiratisation programme, the reality is that it is very hard for many big companies, let alone SMEs, to attract or recruit Emirati talent owing to so many factors, such as most nationals preferring to work in government offices and the significant disparity in compensation packages between the public and private sectors. A successful nationalisation campaign will depend as much on encouraging the Emirati workforce to become competitive with a work ethic that is comparable to the needs of the private sector, as it will on the government legislating appropriately,” says Mike Hynes, Managing Partner, Kershaw Leonard, a highly respected recruitment firm in Dubai.

The government has tried to solve the issue by setting up a classification of companies and establishment based on the number of UAE nationals employed which offers several incentives for companies that meet Emiratisation targets including lower labour card fees.

The Gulf Capital SME Awards will recognise businesses who can best demonstrate how their organisation has created a positive working environment and invested in developing their people with the People and Culture of the Year award; one of 11 awards that will be given out in the annualrecognition programme honouring SME innovation and success, including Gulf Capital Business of the Year, Emirati Business of the Year, MasterCard Small Business of the Year, Online Business of the Year, Start-up Business of the Year, Business Innovation of the Year, Customer Focus of the Year, DHL People and Culture of the Year, Sustainable Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and Business Leader of the Year.

Photo Caption: Mike Hynes, Managing Partner, Kershaw Leonard

About MEED
MEED is a remarkable senior management media brand that encompasses a subscription website and magazine, more than 30 C-level executive conferences and summits hosted by MEED Events, the MEED Quality Awards for Projects and two high-value content businesses, MEED Projects and MEED Insight. MEED Projects is the Middle East’s premium project tracking database and MEED Insight offers tailored research and in-depth analysis. 

Established in 1957, MEED, has been integral to delivering business information and news, intelligence and analysis on the Middle East economies and activities ever since.  Attracting a key senior management audience through its content and activities, MEED is a media brand and publication that covers a spectrum of services that inform.

About Gulf Capital SME Awards
The Gulf Capital SME Awards recognises the UAE’s SMEs, business leaders and entrepreneurs for innovation, growth and success.

About Gulf Capital
Gulf Capital is a leading alternative asset manager focused on the Gulf region, investing across several asset classes including Private Equity, Credit and Mezzanine and Real Estate. The Company currently manages over $3.3 billion of assets across 7 funds.  Gulf Capital’s purpose is to grow capital and build value with world-class expertise and best practices to generate sustainable superior performance for all stakeholders.  Gulf Capital invests its own capital alongside its fund investors’ capital.

In Private Equity, Gulf Capital is focused on acquiring strategic stakes in highly profitable and rapidly growing companies within a select number of fast-growing industries in the GCC region and through deep operational and financial improvements, on accelerating and enhancing their profitability and size.  Gulf Capital was awarded the “Best Private Equity Firm in the Middle East” award by Banker Middle East Magazine in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 

The Firm is actively involved in real estate development through Gulf Related, its joint venture with the Related Companies, a leading private real estate developer in the United States. Gulf Related is focused on pursuing marquee large-scale mixed-use and residential real estate development opportunities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Capital also launched a Credit and Mezzanine Business, Gulf Credit Partners, to meet the financing needs of fast growing companies and to provide acquisition finance across the Middle East. With its private equity, real estate and credit initiatives, Gulf Capital is today one of the largest and most diversified alternative investment managers in the Middle East.

For more information about Gulf Capital PJSC, please visit Gulf Capital’s website at www.gulfcapital.com.

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