UAE cuts working week to four-and-a-half days and moves weekend

Source: The Guardian; Bloomberg; NY Times; CNBC
Date: 7th December 2022

The United Arab Emirates is cutting its working week to four-and-a-half days and moving its weekend from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday in a major shift aimed at improving the country’s competitiveness, officials have said.

The “national working week” will be mandatory for government bodies from 1 January and bucks the regional norm of a full day-off on Friday.

While becoming the only Gulf state not to have a Friday-Saturday weekend, the move will bring the resource-rich and ambitious UAE into line with the non-Arab world.

Under the new timetable, the public sector weekend starts at noon on Fridays and ends on Sunday.

The move is intended to “better align the UAE with global markets”, said the state news agency WAM, calling the new working week the shortest in the world.

“The UAE is the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week,” it said.

The western-style weekend, rumoured for years, was announced less than a week after the former British protectorate celebrated the 50th anniversary of its formation.

The UAE observed a Thursday-Friday weekend until 2006, when it moved to Fridays and Saturdays with the private sector following suit.

“The extended weekend comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing, while increasing performance to advance the UAE’s economic competitiveness,” the WAM report said.

“From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map.

“It will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.”

The new arrangement is another bold step for the UAE, which last year bucked decades of Arab consensus by normalising relations with Israel, unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars in deals.

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