UAE To Adopt 4 ½-Day Working Week To Match Global Markets

Topline

The United Arab Emirates government announced a shift to a four-and-a-half day working week, from Monday morning to noon on Friday, for federal entities starting January, one of only a handful of countries to do so as the Gulf nation seeks to attract more investment and match global markets.

Key Facts

The UAE government tweeted the announcement, which will apply to federal employees, who will work from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm from Monday to Thursday and 7:30 am to noon Friday, effective January 1, 2022.

Friday will be a half day, as it is a holy day in Islam; the UAE currently practices a Sunday to Thursday work week like most Gulf states.

The transition to longer weekends is intended to “boost productivity and improve work-life balance,” the UAE government said.

The government didn’t announce changes for the private sector.

The private education sector there joined the switch to a new work week, the UAE’s education regulator tweeted, according to the Financial Times.

The UAE has already implemented other policy changes to its Islamic religious law to try and draw top talent: It has decriminalized cohabitation of unmarried couples, allowed foreigners 100% ownership of businesses without a local partner and permitted consumption of alcohol and purchase without an alcohol license.

Big Number

90%. That’s the percentage of foreigners out of the UAE’s population of 10 million people. The Gulf nation has been seeking to bring in more expatriates. In February, it said it was opening up the UAE passport to foreigners recommended by a royal or an official. The move, CNBC said, was first in the region, and came after many expats left the country due to the pandemic. The Emirati passport comes with tax-free income, subsidized education and health care, and free housing or housing loans for some citizens.

Key Background

In the US, the 40-hour five-day work week dates back to as early as 1926, when Henry Ford allowed his factory workers to take Saturdays and Sundays off, saying fewer hours lead to better productivity. Times have changed and technological developments have created room for greater flexibility in terms of working hours, location and number of working days for some occupations. According to an August Ipsos poll, two thirds of US adults said they were in support of a four-day work week. More than two thirds said they would like flexibility in working locations and working hours. In fact, discussions about having a shorter working week have been around since the 1960s, according to the BBC. To keep up with the changing landscape of work and improve work-life balance, some countries and companies have been experimenting with a shorter working schedule. In December last year, the Spanish government said it was studying the effect of reduced working hours and a four-day working week. Researchers in Iceland experimented with a shorter work week involving some 1% of its working population – which they said turned out to be an “overwhelming success” in terms of productivity and well-being.

Further reading

UAE Switches Weekend to Saturday-Sunday, Adopts 4 ½ Day Week (Bloomberg)

The UAE is now offering citizenship to foreigners, and the economic gains could be ‘transformative’ (CNBC)

Interest And Excitement About The Adoption Of A Four-Day Workweek Is Picking Up SpeedForbes)

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