Localisation in an emerging Gulf economy: Understanding the role of education, job attributes and analysing the barriers in its process
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to understand Emirati nationals’ perceptions of the role of workforce localisation policies in their professional aspirations and growth and, second, to determine the role of higher education and job attributes in the achievement of their goals. The study uses a hierarchy-based model/road map to improve localisation efforts by attempting to aid understanding of the relationships and barriers hindering these processes. Design/methodology/approach The study follows a two-stage process. In the first stage, a questionnaire-based survey was administered to 207 Emirati postgraduate students from public and private universities based in two major Emirates: Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The sample data were analysed by basic descriptive statistics in the form of cross-relationships and rank correlation tests. In the second stage, an interpretive structural modelling approach was used to develop a hierarchy-based structural model of the barriers to localisation. Findings Emiratis younger than 30 years old consider localisation as an enabling factor in their professional success in contrast to those older than 30 years old. The results also indicate that working female Emiratis have significantly more positive attitudes regarding the contribution of localisation towards their professional success than that of their male counterparts. However, both genders see a mismatch in efforts being made to better equip themselves for the workplace. The hierarchy-based model delineates variables that could contribute to making localisation a successful employment programme in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Research limitations The findings of this study relate to the UAE. However, there are similar localisation programmes that have been implemented in other Gulf Cooperation Council states. Hence, while the results of this study are relevant to the UAE, they may not be generalisable to the entire Gulf region. Practical implications It is proposed that the research findings and the structural model of relationships may help policy makers develop suitable strategies to strengthen the Emirati localisation programme. Originality/value This study makes a contribution to the literature and can serve as a guide to policy makers for localisation programmes. This is achieved by analysing the attitude of UAE nationals studying at higher education institutions. Furthermore, the study presents a hierarchy-based model of the barriers to localisation that explains the root causes of the problem.