New UAE reading law aims to grow knowledge-based economy

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 23 Nov 2016

Private sector encouraged to build libraries and government employees given time to read at work

A new reading law announced by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan gives government employees designated reading time within working hours, and encourages the private sector to invest in new libraries and cultural centres.
Employees in the public sector are being encouraged to read at work, so long as the reading material is relevant to their profession, and government employers must provide their staff with specialised reading material, whether in print or electronically.
The Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development will work in collaboration with the private sector to promote reading, and private entities will be provided with facilities, incentives and land so libraries can be established – although details of exactly how the private sector will be incentivised are not yet available.
“It is certainly commendable in that Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has made national literacy of strategic importance,” said Dr Najat Benchiba-Savenius, head of social and economic research, GCC, at Oxford Strategic Consulting.
“Aspiring to build a knowledge-based economy should be applauded, and in particular, will help inspire future generations about the importance of culture, intellectual production and literacy,” she added.
“Aimed primarily at government employees, private sector and young children, this initiative will encourage UAE nationals and expats alike to take literacy seriously and make it a 'daily habit' – a wish expressed by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”
This year has already been named the ‘Year of Reading’ by Sheikh Khalifa and the new law is designed to help the UAE build a knowledge-based economy. New legislation regarding reading for employees also reflects the growing importance placed on HR departments, and L&D in particular.
In Sharjah, the option for government employees to read at the Sharjah Book Authority has been in operation since February 2016 – employees are allowed to read work-related publications for 30 minutes per day or two-and-a-half hours per week.
Annalinde Nickisch, HR consultant at The Thought Factory, said it was unlikely the regulation on reading would affect workplaces in the private sector. “However, implementing a law ensuring that time is set aside for employees to further their education within their professional sphere could shape how training and development functions are managed,” she said.
“To maintain professional licenses, many trades including medical professionals, educators and finance professionals already observe a similar concept of availing continuing education credits (CEC) to keep well-informed on industry standards, changing regulations, and new innovations.
“While external training programmes are often expensive and not every employer budgets for comprehensive training and development, setting educational targets through reading initiatives can allow employers to encourage continuous learning at the workplace while also ensuring that employees stay up-to-date with market practices,” added Nickisch.