2021 UAE Business Rewind


As 2021 draws to a close we take a look at the biggest, most groundbreaking announcements that have offered a positive shake-up to the UAE business ecosystem. 2021 has been a historic year for big reforms in law, business and the economy in the UAE, a country which undoubtedly is entering the post-covid era stronger than ever before in terms of economic competitiveness, work/life balance, investment opportunities and long term residency options. Without further ado here are the top business headlines that happened in 2021.

UAE Business 2021

The 4.5 Day Work Week


In December 2021, the UAE Government announced the most groundbreaking news of 2021, that made headlines around the world - the 4.5 day work week. Under the new workdays, to be implemented from January 1, 2022, the public-sector weekend starts at noon on Fridays and ends on Sunday. Although the changes are only required by law for the public sector currently, many private sector companies have embraced the changes and will be adopting the new work week including Synergy Gulf.


This January, the United Arab Emirates will step into the future of work, the 4.5-day workweek, which can improve the lives of workers and families and increase the UAE’s competitiveness at a global level by syncing markets, working days and boosting economic productivity.


Projects of the 50


In September 2021, the UAE Government launched 50 new economic initiatives to boost the country's economic competitiveness and attract $150 bln (AED 550 bln) in foreign direct investment in the next nine years. ‘Projects of the 50’ covers several key sectors such as economy, entrepreneurship, advanced skills, digital economy, space and advanced technologies. Among the new initiatives are new visa categories to attract talented professionals, $5Bn investment in the technology sector and investments into boosting exports to 10 key regions. All of these projects seek to establish the UAE as a global nation and a testbed for technologies and innovation.


The Golden Visa


In September 2021, the UAE Government expanded the “Golden Visa” eligibility to include managers, CEOs, and specialists in various fields. New regulations in the UAE included the Golden Visa eligibility expansion, which includes specialists in the fields of science, engineering, health, education, business management and technology.


In 2019, the UAE introduced a new system for long-term residence visas called Golden Visa’s. The new visa classification enables foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need of a national sponsor and with 100 per cent ownership of their business on the UAE’s mainland. These visas will be issued for 5 or 10 years and will be renewed automatically.


To learn more about how to apply and if you qualify for a Golden Visa, check out our guide here.


Emiratis in the Private Sector


In September 2021, the UAE Government announced that all private companies should have a workforce of at least 10% Emiratis by 2026. The government plans to spend up to Dh24 billion ($6.53bn) on getting 75,000 Emiratis into private-sector jobs, plus additional incentives to encourage Emiratis to work in the sector. Grants will also be offered to private sector companies to hire and train Emirati graduates during the first year of employment.


Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said:

"Today, we have clear and supported targets for the percentage of citizens in the private sector. The future is in the private sector."

Reduction in Business Setup Fees


In August 2021, Shiekh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai issued Executive Council Resolution No. (19) 2021 on waivers and reductions of fees for a total of 88 services provided by various Dubai Government entities. Listed within the announcement, Dubai Economy will reduce fees related to issuing and renewing licenses of business centres, and issuance of licenses for providing government services, among others. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi has also announced business setup fees in the emirate have been reduced to AED1,000 – a reduction of more than 90 per cent. Licence renewal fees also have been reduced to Dh1,000.


Decriminalisation of Bounced Checks


In December 2021, Dubai courts started implementing new amendments to the Commercial Transactions Law that decriminalise issuing cheques without sufficient funds. As per federal law 14 of 2020, updated in October 2020, cheque beneficiaries or bearers don’t need to file criminal or civil cases for non-payment of the cheque.


They can directly approach the court's execution Judge to order payment of the cheque’s value or what is remaining of it. Only offences found to involve fraud – such as when a person deliberately sets out to deceive the recipient or withdraw funds before the cheque can be cashed – will be brought before the courts.


In an extraordinarily busy year for the UAE, outside of the business realm, the highlight for many visitors and residents alike has been the launch of Expo2020 which has already received millions of visitors, firmly putting Dubai on the map as a country that can make world-class events such as Expo happen with grace, tolerance and diversity represented in the most spectacular fashion. Once again proven by the UAE's successful bid to host Cop28 in 2023.


We look forward to 2022 and what's next in the pipeline for the groundbreaking reforms UAE is undergoing.


Grant Kirk, COO Synergy Gulf