Mideast Nation Shifts Its Workweek by a Day

United Arab Emirates moves to a Monday-Friday schedule, aligned with the West
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2021 8:21 AM CST
Mideast Nation Shifts Its Workweek by a Day
The city skyline at the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers districts in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.   (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

(Newser) – The United Arab Emirates said Tuesday its official workweek will move to Monday to Friday, a significant change that brings the Islamic nation home to major financial institutions in line with Western schedules, per the AP. The decision, which is to take effect next month, makes the Gulf Arab federation one of the few countries in the Middle East to operate on Western hours instead of on a Sunday-through-Thursday week. Lebanon and Turkey also follow a Monday-Friday workweek. The long-rumored shift comes as the UAE, home to the coastal emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seeks to bolster its business and tourist appeal while emerging from crisis of the coronavirus pandemic and facing stiffer regional competition, particularly with Saudi Arabia.

Government employees would work a half-day on Friday, the traditional Muslim holy day, and then take Saturday and Sunday off, the announcement said. The statement also said that Islamic Friday noon sermons and prayers, ritually called when the sun is perpendicular to the Earth, will instead begin at 1:15pm, after employees leave work. The government shift likely will see private industry follow suit, as it did in 2006, when the workweek changed from Saturday to Wednesday—an Islamic workweek followed in some Muslim countries, such as Iran and Afghanistan.

Skyscraper-studded Dubai has attracted a variety of Western multinational firms over the years. Its Dubai International Financial Center overseen by independent regulators has grown, providing stock traders and market traders a convenient time zone to work between Asian and European markets— the sun sets in this part of the Mideast around the time markets open in New York. “The new working week will also bring the UAE’s financial sector into closer alignment with global real-time trading and communications-based transactions,” the government statement said. (Of course, some in the West are now pushing to move to a four-day week in the wake of the pandemic.)

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