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The UAE has just announced some big changes to its work schedule.
The Gulf country moves to a four-and-a-half day working week, and weekends consist of Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
This is important for two reasons: it probably makes the UAE the first country to formalize the working week shorter than five days, and it also makes it more in line with Western timelines. So far, the UAE has had Friday and Saturday weekends off, which is the norm in many Muslim-majority countries.
“The extended weekend comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to enhance work-life balance and enhance social welfare, while increasing performance to enhance the economic competitiveness of the UAE,” said the official Emirates News Agency (WAM), which announced the move on Tuesday.
The changes apply to federal government entities and will take effect on January 1. After this point, business days will start Monday through Thursday from 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM local time, and Friday hours will be from 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM local time.
Friday sermons and Friday prayers will be held starting at 1:15 pm local time, and the Emirates News Agency (WAM) said government employees can make arrangements to work from home on Friday as well as “arrange their working hours on the basis of flexible time”.
Schools and private employers may follow suit
The Associated Press reported that it is likely that the private industry will follow the government’s lead, noting that it did so in 2006 when the work week changed from Saturday to Wednesday.
The education authorities in Dubai said in Tuesday Tweet “The private education sector in Dubai will be open in line with the UAE government’s recent decision regarding the working week.”
Schools and universities will follow the new working week as well, as the country’s Ministry of Education will announce the new study dates, the English-language newspaper Khaleej Times reported on Wednesday.
The government says there will be economic and lifestyle benefits
The agency added that the UAE is the first country in the world to offer a national work week shorter than the five-day global week. Al Jazeera notes that it will become the only Gulf country that will not spend the weekend on Friday and Saturday.
WAM said the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources proposed the new work week after “comprehensive reference feasibility studies” focusing on its potential impact on the economy, social and family ties and public welfare.
She explains that this move will facilitate financial and commercial transactions with countries that follow the weekend from Saturday to Sunday, which in turn will create stronger links and job opportunities for multinational and UAE-based companies.
WAM added, that it is preparing to bring the financial sector in the UAE closer to alignment with the real-time global trade and communications transactions driving things like stock exchanges, banks and financial institutions.
The report concluded by saying: “This step is expected to enhance not only trade opportunities, but will also add to the flexible, safe and enjoyable lifestyle that the UAE provides to its citizens and residents.”
Abdul Rahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation. He told CNBC The change comes in the context of several reforms aimed at “improving the competitive advantages of the United Arab Emirates”.
Some of these measures from last year include introducing long-term visas, relaxing regulations on alcohol consumption, decriminalizing cohabitation of unmarried couples, and easing penalties for drug offenses.
This story originally appeared on morning edition live blog