The Emergent Gen Y Workforce: Implications for Labour Nationalization Policies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia

Hwee Ling Lim


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) implement labour nationalization policies to regulate workforce localization. The sustainability of these policies is complicated by an emergent large Generation Y (Gen Y) demographic group and low participation by nationals in expatriate dominated labour markets. The countries’ continued economic growth depends on companies’ abilities to understand recruitment and retention issues specific to their young citizens. This study compared the life priorities and work motivators of Emirati and Saudi Gen Y. It adapted the Schwartz Value Inventory to measure the importance of four life dimensions and Twenge et al.’s (2010) model to measure the importance of work preferences on five motivational dimensions. The study sampled UAE and Saudi nationals born 1980-1990 (Gen Y). The findings showed a symmetrical prioritization of life priorities by Emiratis and Saudi respondents but with differences in work preferences as Emiratis were most motivated by extrinsic work motivators while Saudis placed greatest importance on intrinsic work motivators. The paper concluded with recommendations for effective recruitment and retention of young nationals that can help companies manage this generation and contribute to scarce existing human resource management research in the Arabian Gulf region.

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