It’s been the talk of the week in most Arab countries. Starting from the 1st of January, all government entities in the United Arab Emirates, and its financial hub Dubai, will switch from the current Sunday-to-Thursday working week to a Saturday-Sunday weekend.
This is a daring move for a GCC country – Friday being a holy day in Islam – and will apply to the public and educational sector, but the private sector will most likely follow, according to representatives from authorities’ and business owners contacted by local media outlets. The new working week will start on Monday and end Friday at noon. According to a statement issued on 7 December by the UAE Federal Government, the aim is to allow the country to align more closely with global markets by eliminating the weekend gap with the rest of the world.
The news prompted mixed reactions among experts on social networks. For example, Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC wrote in a Tweet quoted by Bloomberg that, “Bringing the workweek in line with global norms will boost various sectors including travel and tourism, but it also meaningfully adds to the UAE’s competitiveness.” On the contrary, Pedro Gomes, an economist at Birkbeck, University of London, considers the move as a “tactical mistake” that will “exacerbate the narrative of hardworking private sector versus lazy bureaucrats.”
The fashion and luxury sector seems to be OK, if not happy, with the measure. “It’s a smart move for the UAE, and it will have a positive impact on local business, and not only on the fashion business,” says Roy Sabbagh, regional sales manager for Givaudan, the Swiss manufacturer of fragrances and cosmetic ingredients. However, he underlines the fact that not everyone will accept it happily, at least in the short term, as Friday is a prayer day.
Luxury expert and founder of Moksyz luxury retail consultancy, Fidaa Baddour, thinks, for his part, that retailers business in the UAE won’t be too affected by the switch as “they already work 7 days a week.” If working hours aren’t an issue, “there will be some reorganization effort though, to optimize the way company will deal and communicate with their counterparts in other GCC countries, where the week will still start on Sunday. If the private sector largely switches to the new working days, companies based in the UAE and that have subsidiaries, or even their mother company, in other GCC countries will only have 4 days and a half working days in common,” he adds.
Sabbagh mentioned that the measure will also impact the way professionals who travel from the UAE to other Middle Eastern countries will schedule their business trips, as there will be a weekend gap between the UAE most Middle East countries. “Again, that’s part of an adaptation process that will probably take some time, but will lead to a positive outcome,” he concludes.