The United Arab Emirates opts for a western-style getaway

Small upheaval in the Gulf. Traditionally, Friday and Saturday are weekend days. From January, the weekend will be aligned with that of western countries. But he will keep half a day free on Friday afternoon.

This new weekend has been planned for several years. In 1971, the year the Federation of the United Arab Emirates was founded, after the withdrawal of British troops, the weekend was set from Thursday to Friday. In 2006 it was changed to Friday-Saturday. In 2022, the new national working week for the public sector will come into force. The weekend begins on Friday at 1 p.m. with the great prayer that brings believers together every week and ends on Sunday evening.

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In many Muslim countries such as Algeria, Qatar or Syria, Friday is a public holiday just like Saturday. The United Arab Emirates, a state made up of 7 emirates (Abu Dhabi, Adjman, Shardja, Dubai, Fudjayra, Ras Al-Khayma, Umm Al-Qaywayn), is the only one in the Gulf to have a weekend on Saturday-Sunday. According to WAM, the country’s news agency, the UAE is also the first country in the world to introduce a working week of less than five days.

A business decision

For the UAE government, the aim is to improve work-life balance and social well-being as the new week brings more free time. The aim is also to increase the country’s economic output by aligning it with the working days of the international financial markets.

“This will ensure smooth financial, commercial and economic transactions with the countries after the Saturday-Sunday weekend and strengthen the (..) opportunities for thousands of international companies based in the Emirates.”announces the WAM and indicates that this is allowed “Increasing performance in terms of competitiveness” in the country.

One of the richest and most influential countries in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates is a major financial center in the region that attracts foreign investors. “This decision is therefore logical and not surprising”, analyzes Anne Gadel, consultant specializing in the Middle East and member of the Jean Jaurès Foundation. She also believes the other Gulf countries may be tempted to emulate the Emirates for the same reason of economic competition, but it’s not necessarily a priority for her.

desire for openness

With this announcement, the country fits into the continuity of a policy of opening up and modernization desired by Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Al Nahyan. In late 2020, the Emirates decriminalized expatriate coexistence and relaxed visa requirements in January.

As the economic competition in the Gulf is very strong, especially with Saudi Arabia, this decision also aims to attract more expatriates who need the emirates to develop their economy.

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