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By Liam Mooney (Founder of Fit For Business), written by George Callaghan.


The Emirati Government has announced that compulsory military service is being introduced for all Emirati young men. . Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai announced the move last week. He did not indicate when this new scheme will start. The plan is for most youngsters to spend two years in the military but those with degrees will be required to serve for only nine months. Women will be allowed to join the military but it will be optional for women rather than mandatory as it is for men. It is interesting to note that Qatar has mooted a similar scheme.


This is excellent news and a masterstroke by the Sheikh. Serving in the Armed Forces will be a tremendous gain for Emirati youngsters. It will improve their physical fitness, it will give them greater mental toughness, it will instil them with values of teamwork, leadership, graft and it will give them even more national pride.


Mandatory military service will also be a huge positive factor for the UAE economy. It will help the Government’s programme and goal of Emiratisation. Those who have gained skills and self-confidence in the military will arguably make better private sector workers and give them more confidence to enter the sector. The people will be more rounded as individuals and the private sector will also be keener to hire them. Serving in the military gives people a unified sense of pride in their country and in themselves. Finally it will raise activity levels of youngsters and perhaps help combat lifestyle diseases which seem to be a massive issues in the GCC. Winston Churchill once said, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”


Many Western countries abolished compulsory military service in the past few decades, including my own, the UK. I think the world can take note from the move in the UAE. In many western countries there is a common perception of young people being overindulged and disengaged. In the UK there are certainly big issues with youth unemployment, crime and activity levels. There is now an underclass, not even a working class because these people do not work and claim benefits. It’s a huge drain on the UK economy.


Of course there are many factors that contribute to these problems. However a big issue facing our youngsters are strong and positive role models, people that can show them a new direction and hope. National Service in the UK would certainly provide the role model aspect for them as well as essential life skills. Serving in the forces gives youngsters skills for life which will be more attractive to employers. It also dins into them the importance of some basic things that some people forget. Passing exams is only half the battle in getting a good job. Being intelligent is no use if you do not turn up on time and have a slovenly appearance. Youngsters will be forced to press their clothes, to polish their boots, to get up before dawn and to do plenty of exercise. By going without creature comforts for a few months these men will learn the value of money and they will develop a greater appreciation of the luxuries they have at home. Compulsory military service is a means of enhancing the unity of the country. Young men from different backgrounds and from different regions of the country serve together in the same unit. Of course some countries are against the military but there are alternative civilian/community service roles that could be performed.


So great move by the UAE, David Cameron should take note.


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4 Responses

  1. Jim Drysdale says:

    I noticed a statistic that the current UAE army is 44,000 strong – it would be fascinating to know the make up of the manpower, all UAE at present or are there non nationals serving?

    Will the requirement to serve be enforced consistently? Will the reduced 9 months period for degree holders encourage more to attend university, in turn putting pressure on the academic system?

    It sounds like a huge opportunity for training providers – but what will be the local equivalent of whitewashing coal beloved of UK Nationals Service NCOs?

    • admin says:

      Hi Jim

      Would be great to get some comments on this as I don’t know the specifics of the UAE Army. Personally I think it’s great and it should be re-introduced in the UK … whitewashing of coal included!

  2. John Shenton says:

    Good post and comment on how the policy will fit into the UAE university system, however, I think there is a danger in conflating the unique set of challenges faced by the UK with those in the UAE.

    I note that another country in the Middle East (of which we do not speak) has pursued a policy of National Service since foundation that has (alongside funding for specific higher education programmes) had the ancillary effect of spurring the development of information technology initially developed by the military- but which was subsequently discovered to have civil applications. It will be interesting to see how this policy develops and indeed compliments other policy objectives of our hosts for IT and Science and Technology.

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