DUBAI – The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would shift to a four and half-day working week with a Saturday-Sunday weekend from next year to better align its economy with global markets.
The oil producing Gulf state, a regional commercial, trade and tourism hub, now has a Friday-Saturday weekend. As of Jan. 1, 2022, the weekend would start on Friday afternoon.
The UAE has in the past year taken measures to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent at a time of growing economic rivalry with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The working week for government entities would start on Monday and end on Friday at 12 noon, before Muslim prayers, the government said in a statement, adding this would improve the work-life balance for employees.
The government said the move would “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.”
Mohammed Ali Yasin, chief strategy officer at Al Dhabi Capital, said the financial sector would benefit from being able to make simultaneous payment settlements with developed markets and the tourism industry would also be a beneficiary.
“It could be a good experiment for other countries in the region,” he said.
Friday is a weekly holiday in many predominantly Muslim countries.
Monica Malik, an economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said she expected many private sector companies in the UAE to follow the Saturday-Sunday weekend, describing the move as a “very meaningful development” alongside other recent reforms.
The UAE has liberalised laws regarding cohabitation before marriage, alcohol and personal status laws in addition to introducing longer-term visas as a way to attract and retain talent and encourage more businesses to invest.