The United Arab Emirates has decided to move its weekend from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday and introduce a four-and-a-half-day work week, particularly for the sake of competitiveness, WAM news agency reported on Tuesday. The decision of the Federation, one of the wealthiest and most influential countries in the Gulf, was made out of economic considerations. “From an economic point of view, the new working week will allow the UAE to better align with international markets,” WAM agency said. “This will ensure fluid financial, commercial and economic transactions with countries after the Saturday-Sunday weekend and (…) strengthen opportunities for thousands of international companies based in the Emirates,” he said, adding specified this will thus increase “the performance in terms of competitiveness” of the country.
A balance between work and private life
The agency went on to explain that the long weekend was “part of the Emirati government’s efforts to improve work-life balance and well-being in society”. From January, the new working week will be binding for the public sector. The weekend begins on Friday afternoon with the big weekly prayer from 1:00 p.m. and ends on Sunday evening.
Scott Livermore, chief economist at Oxford Economics Middle East, a British think tank, believes that the private sector, free to choose its work week, should follow the public sector. “Targeting Europe and Asia will help internationally oriented activities, which are an important sector of the economy, and could attract investment,” he told AFP. “However, a shorter workweek poses challenges in terms of managing production costs, although a shorter workweek has been shown to improve productivity.” According to the WAM agency, the UAE is “the first country in the world to introduce a workweek that is shorter than the five days” in force elsewhere.
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Happy with the change
The federation will also become the only Gulf country with a Saturday-Sunday weekend, giving it an international edge over regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. The new weekend announcement, which has been debated for years, comes a week after the 50th anniversary of the federation’s founding in 1971, after British troops left the region. The Emirates had a Thursday-Friday weekend until 2006 when it switched to Friday-Saturday. The move comes just over a year after a normalization deal with Israel that led to the signing of a range of deals ranging from tourism to aviation to financial services. It was generally well received on social media, where tweets from the WAM agency were widely shared. “Although I’ve gotten used to the Friday-Saturday weekend over the years, I’m happy with the change,” said one Twitter user. “Amazing decision by the Emirates (…) The weekend now coincides with the rest of the world,” wrote another. Manoj, who works in technology in Dubai, welcomed the Emirates’ decision. “It’s a great initiative because when you work with clients abroad it’s always a problem because we don’t work on Fridays and they don’t work on Sundays.” Monica, who holds a position in finance, agrees: “It’s good from an international perspective because we’re in tune with the rest of the world.” As for the extra half day off, “it’s good because it gives us more time for the family gives,” she says.