United Arab Emirates announces it is changing its official work week from Monday to Friday, a change that will begin next month

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates announced on Tuesday that its official workweek will change from Monday to Friday, a significant change that brings the Islamic nation home to major financial institutions according to Western calendars.

The decision, which is due to go into effect next month, makes the Arab Gulf Federation one of the few countries in the Middle East to operate during Western hours instead of Sunday through Thursday. Lebanon and Turkey also follow a working week from Monday to Friday.

The long-standing change comes as the United Arab Emirates, home to the coastal emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seeks to strengthen its business and tourism appeal as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic crisis and grapples with more intense regional competition, in particular with Saudi Arabia.

Dubai, dotted with skyscrapers, has attracted a variety of Western multinationals over the years. Its Dubai International Financial Center overseen by independent regulators has grown, providing stock traders and market traders with a convenient time zone to work between Asian and European markets – the sun is setting in this part of the Middle East. during market opening hours in New York.

“The new work week will also help align the UAE’s financial sector more closely with real-time, communications-based global transactions,” the government statement said, adding that the new schedule aims to “not only stimulate business opportunities, but also add to the flexible, safe and enjoyable lifestyle that the Emirates offers to its citizens and residents. ”

Government workers would work a half-day on Friday, the traditional Muslim holy day, and then take Saturday and Sunday off, according to the announcement.

The statement also said that Friday noon Islamic sermons and prayers, ritually called when the sun is perpendicular to Earth, will instead begin at 1:15 p.m., after employees leave work. There was no immediate reaction from other Middle Eastern countries to the announcement.

The change of government will likely see private industry follow suit, as it did in 2006, when the work week changed from Saturday to Wednesday – an Islamic working week followed in some Muslim countries, such as Iran. and Afghanistan. Emirati state-linked newspaper The National said all schools will switch to the same work week on the first day of next year’s term.

The UAE government hailed the move as making it “the first country in the world to introduce a national work week shorter than the global five-day week” – a reference to Friday becoming only half a working day.

The announcement is silent on whether private employers should also offer their staff the half-day Friday.

The UAE, the region’s premier commercial and financial hub, faces new challenges as Saudi Arabia steps up efforts to attract foreign businesses and investors as it seeks to wean itself off oil.

The kingdom has told all multinational companies that they must relocate to their regional headquarters in Riyadh or risk losing lucrative state contracts by 2024 – stoking tensions with the less conservative Dubai which has long attracted foreigners with special economic zones, quality schools, luxurious penthouses and vertigo. range of bars and restaurants.

To further strengthen their brand as a cosmopolitan hub as it battles the economic effects of the pandemic, the UAE has made a series of changes to its penal code, based on Islamic law, or Sharia law. The overhaul loosened regulations on alcohol consumption, decriminalized cohabitation of unmarried couples, relaxed strict penalties for drug-related offenses and allowed foreigners to marry, divorce and inherit wealth according to the legal systems of their country of origin, among others.

As the virus overwhelmed hospitals and triggered lockdowns around the world, the highly vaccinated and open to business United Arab Emirates has become somewhat of a haven for the world’s rich who have purchased a record number of luxury homes. in the Emirates this year.

The country, where foreign residents are nearly nine to one, has also put in place long-term residency options for talented professionals and their families, issued special visas for freelancers and remote workers, and offered wealthier expats the opportunity to retire in Dubai.