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Goodbye welfare state? Abu Dhabi cutting benefits for Emiratis who refuse work

Abu Dhabi says it's moving away from a 'welfare-dependent' society [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 December, 2018

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The Abu Dhabi government will cut benefits for Emiratis who won't work, saying they want to avoid a system where people rely on state handouts.
Abu Dhabi said it will cut benefits for "fit to work" unemployed Emiratis, with the emirate saying it is seeking to move away from a system where nationals are reliant on state handouts.

"We don't want a society that is dependent on social welfare," Mugheer al-Khaili, chairman of Abu Dhabi's new Department of Community Development, told The National.

He said that Emiratis in Abu Dhabi will have to prove they are not fit to work if they want to continue to receive generous benefits from the oil-rich government.

A new "three strikes and your out" system will replace the current one, with job-seekers having to accept work after three job offers, or see their allowances cut.

"Those able to work will be given a first and second chance - and by the third, we will stop the aid," he said, a system which is in place in some other welfare state countries.

He said the system is not aimed at stay-at-home mums or the sick, but those who do not want to work. The aim of the changes is to "bring people back" to work and make Emiratis "active", according to the UAE daily.

"You will find an Emirati on welfare receiving Dh8,000 ($2,178) per month. So we don't want the attitude of 'why should I work since the salary I receive is only a few thousand more,'" he said.

"In some countries, you have parents that are dependent on social welfare and then their children and then their children's children, so entire generations of families on welfare. That is not what we want for the UAE."

Khaili appeared to accept that the UAE is looking at moving away from the old system where nationals were treated to generous state benefits and subsidies.

"We need to prepare our society for the post-oil era and give incentives to people to work hard," he added.

He said the number of families on government benefits is "soon to be revealed".

The UAE and other Gulf countries have tried to reform their economies following low oil prices and a general move away from fossil fuels.

The UAE, among other Gulf countries, have introduced sales taxes along with other cost-cutting measures. Defence spending has continued to stay high.

Although the government is looking to cut state aid to nationals, it has refused to grant more freedoms to Emiratis, with UAE security clamping down on activism in recent years.

The UAE also announced on the weekend that half of seats in the Federal National Council will be given to women.

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