What is the Nafis Program?
The Nafis Program is a visionary federal initiative by the UAE government designed to enhance the employability and competitiveness of Emirati citizens. With a stringent goal of empowering Emiratis in the workforce, the Nafis program seeks to create abundant job opportunities for Emiratis in the private sector over the next five years.
Nafis is an integral component of the "Projects of the 50" which aims to expedite the UAE's development and offers various financial incentives to the private sector for maximizing employment prospects for Emirati fresh graduates and seasoned professionals aged 18 and above. Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Dr. Al Awar emphasizes the ambitions of the Nafis program: "Under the Nafis Program, the UAE aspires to elevate the number of Emirati beneficiaries from 75,000 to 170,000 within the next five years."
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What are the Objectives of the Nafis Program?
Nafis aims to provide an encouraging environment for Emiratis that provides them access to opportunities for professional development. Nafis has identified clear objectives that include:
Fostering Public-Private Partnerships:
The Nafis Program aims to facilitate a mutually beneficial collaboration between the public and private sectors in the UAE, empowering the latter to play a pivotal role in steering the nation's economic and national development.
Enhancing Emirati Professionals:
With a dedicated focus on upskilling Emiratis, the program aims to equip Emirati professionals with in-demand skills, knowledge, and expertise to enable nationals to fill 75,000 job positions in the private sector over the next half-decade.
Equality in Employment:
A crucial objective is to advocate for equal employment opportunities for Emiratis within the private sector. Working in the private sector will encourage Emirati nationals to explore diverse career paths and penetrate the private monopolies in the region.
Improving Employment Opportunities:
The Nafis Program seeks to cultivate an increasingly attractive job landscape for Emiratis within the private sector, catering to their career aspirations.
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Empowering Through Support:
The Nafis Program participants receive comprehensive support through coaching, professional training, mentoring, and counseling services, strengthening the Emirati workforce in the private sector.
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Initiatives by Nafis to Transform Emirati Talent
The Nafis Program is designed to target sectors and industries within the private domain. Emirati citizens aged 18 and above can leverage the program's benefits by registering on the Nafis platform. This platform is a gateway for job searches, training opportunities, and program applications, accessible through UAE Pass and subject to specific eligibility criteria.
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The Nafis Program was rolled out in two phases, each comprising distinct initiatives:
Phase 1 of the Nafis Program
Nafis launched its phase one in October 2021 with basic amenities for Emiratis to secure their professional and financial standing in the country. Some of the most important initiatives in this phase include:
Emirati Salary Support Scheme:
As part of the Emirati Salary Support Scheme, Emirati professionals are eligible for additional financial support besides the salary they earn by occupying a position in a private company. The program aims to help Emiratis make their desired salaries, regardless of what private companies offer them. However, there is a cap on how much the top-up monetary compensation should be, depending on the role, compensation, and the industry.
As part of the Pension Program Scheme, Emirati professionals are eligible for a pension that helps them plan for their retirement. All private-sector companies must register their Emirati employees with the General Pension and Social Security Authority (GPSSA) within 30 days of employment. An Emirati employee also must ensure that registration has been completed within one month from their joining date, after which 5% of their salaries are deducted and contributed towards their pension fund. The government also pays an extra 2.5% for each employee registered with GPSSA to extend its support and encouragement to Emirati professionals.
Child Allowance Scheme:
As part of the Child Allowance Scheme, the government of UAE is assisting families through child-related financial support for the very first time in history. Every Emirati professional working in the private sector, responsible for providing for their children and earning a salary of less than AED 50,000, is eligible to receive AED 600 for up to four children below 21.
The Unemployment Benefit acts as a safety net and enables Emiratis to continue their livelihood if they have lost a job within the private sector for reasons beyond their control. The scheme offers AED 7000 to Emirati professionals who lost their jobs, AED 4500 for their spouses (if unemployed), and up to AED 3,000 for their children (depending on the number of children). However, like all schemes under the Nafis program, these benefits are subject to several terms and conditions.
The Job Offers program has created a unified platform for posting jobs for Emiratis, where unemployed nationals can find the right opportunity for themselves. The platform facilitates Emiratis with employment opportunities within the private sector.
Phase 2 of the Nafis Program
Nafis launched its phase two in March 2022 with specialized training and development programs. Some of the most important initiatives in this phase include:
The Talent Program develops national expertise through training and international certifications in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy and the Center for Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) to actively implement this initiative. An Emirati national working in the private sector, meeting certain requirements, and wishing to upskill can benefit from this program.
The Apprentice Program is a vocational training initiative to match recent Emirati graduates to apprenticeships in private companies to help them build experience. This training initiative offers financial rewards to private and semi-governmental companies for supporting the development of Emirati graduates' expertise.
National Healthcare Program:
The National Healthcare Program aims to nurture Emirati healthcare professionals through scholarships and specialized training, especially in nursing. It aims to empower 10,000 citizens in the health sector over the next five years.
Vocational Counseling Program:
The Vocational Counseling Program offers career guidance and counseling services to help individuals identify suitable skills, opportunities, and career paths, along with guidance on CV writing, interviewing, and work ethics.
As the Nafis Program continues to evolve, it is a testament to the UAE's unwavering commitment to nurturing a highly skilled and competitive workforce while boosting its private sector's vitality. The program holds promise for Emirati citizens and contributes significantly to the nation's broader economic development agenda.
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Rewards and Penalties for the Nafis Program
The government has strategized the Nafis program carefully to ensure it strengthens the private industries as they support Emirati nationals in climbing up their career ladders to become more resourceful professionals. The Nafis program offers incentives and financial support to private companies that commit to the rules and regulations. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court and Chairman of the Board of the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council, has launched the first cycle of ‘The Nafis Award’ for 2022-2023.
The award aims to celebrate private sector companies that have excelled in hiring UAE nationals, nurtured Emirati talent, and extended unwavering support to Emiratisation schemes. The award also aims to recognize outstanding Emiratis in the private sector to celebrate their professional achievements. This also helps encourage other Emirati nationals to follow a more strategic approach to build a robust career.
However, many private companies and Emirati individuals took undue advantage of the generous support and amenities offered by the Nafis program. The government has defined heavy fines and penalties for companies that force their Emiratisation statistics or create loopholes for Emirati employees' financial and professional development. Moreover, from June 2023, the government has imposed a fine of AED 6000 for every Emirati employee a private company cannot hire within their quota of hiring Emirati nationals. Private companies with 50 or more employees are expected to annually increase their Emiratisation percentage by 2% for overall positions within the company.
Moreover, in 2022, 436 private companies violated the rules of Emiratisation by showcasing false job placements. The government took notice of this violation and penalized these companies heavily. The government was also able to recover AED 2.3 million from Emiratis who had unknowingly participated in occupying dubious positions in private companies, only for the sake of helping them meet their Emiratisation quotas. The government is now more stringent in checking Emiratis and private companies to ensure that the Nafis program and its perks are only leveraged for the intended purpose.
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The Nafis program holds several advantages for Emirati nationals and is also an excellent way for private companies to receive government recognition and support. However, finding the perfect Emirati for a particular position can be challenging, and tools like Iris can help employers and hiring managers find the right Emirati talent for their companies. In conclusion, as the Nafis Program continues its dynamic evolution, it is a testament to the UAE's dedication to cultivating a highly skilled and competitive workforce while fostering a robust private sector. This visionary initiative maps out well for Emirati citizens and is pivotal in propelling the nation toward a future of enhanced economic development.