The author writes about how the UAE has developed into a hub for talent and the measures taken to ensure retention of high-achieving Emiratis.
Brain drain is the term used to define the movement or emigration of skilled and talented individuals that leave their home countries, usually lesser developed, to seek opportunities abroad in pursuit of an improved quality of life.
The United Arab Emirates is one such country and is a major hub for talented individuals in neighboring regions and beyond who wish to start a new life here. With the UAE’s booming economy and high standard of living, the brain regain isn’t only limited to attracting skilled labour from lesser-developed countries, but also from well-developed countries.
In 2014, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, published an article on LinkedIn that talked about this phenomenon with the view that talent is driven towards countries that foster an environment of growth and achievement. That is what the UAE has been doing over the years and this has resulted in an influx of talent, or simply brain regain.
Sheikh Mohammad also emphasized that people have a right to choose where they wish to live, and where they feel they have the most to gain. This is true for everyone and is also true for Emiratis. While we are privileged to live in a country where we have support and guidance from our government, many high achieving Emiratis still choose to live abroad to broaden their horizons and gain international exposure.
As the number of Emirati students pursuing higher education in countries such as the US or UK increases, so does the possibility that some may not want to return. Their qualifications can open doors to international companies where their skills may be in demand. There are indeed many Emiratis who choose to spend a few years working abroad in a bid to gain knowledge and credibility, and are then able to bring back their valuable expertise and contribute more effectively to the development of the country. This is certainly a positive approach as this is how the UAE will continue to grow and prosper.
The UAE has been proactive in ensuring that it does not become a victim of brain drain; however, long-term measures need to be in place to retain the Emirati talent for the future of this country.
Emiratization strategies are one such way in which retention of Emiratis is pursued. Apart from providing job opportunities, many entities have been investing in building this pool of talent. For example, various government companies across the UAE provide scholarships to high achievers enabling them to pursue their education in leading universities across the world, with monthly stipends, and in return, ask that the sponsored student return to the UAE and join their workforce. This is a great way of ensuring that the new generation is given the tools to develop themselves and bring back their talent to serve in this country.
Similarly, there was an initiative launched by a leading recruitment portal, Monster.com, to support the Emiratization vision of companies. Their initiative was named “Return2Home” and was targeted towards expat Emiratis in a bid to attract them to opportunities available in the UAE.
We are fortunate to live in a country where its citizens are regarded as valuable investments. Emiratis today can pursue any career, through scholarships, leadership programs, entrepreneurial support, and other initiatives that are available to the high achievers seeking these opportunities. The doors are wide open and the possibilities are endless.
Yet, the main way to ensure avoidance of brain drain is to instil a desire of wanting to give back. We need to recognize the opportunities we have been given, without feeling a sense of entitlement, and want to give back to this society that has provided us with so much. In the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed, “To make this work, we must believe in people. Human beings – their ideas, innovations, dreams and connections – are the capital of the future. In this sense, the “brain regain” is not so much an achievement in itself as it is a leading indicator of development, because where great minds go today, great things will happen tomorrow.”
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (2014). “The Brain Regain”. LinkedIn. Retrieved March 2016. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141022060126-356778396-the-brain-regain?trk=mp-reader-card