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The United Arab Emirates and its international finance hub Dubai are switching to a four-and-a-half-day work week ending at midday Friday to make it easier to do business globally.

The move away from the current Sunday to Thursday schedule — the first by a Gulf state — will help the UAE "achieve business continuity and alignment with global economies and banking," the government said in a statement. The change will take effect on January 1, and will apply to government employees and schools.

The UAE, which has a predominantly Muslim population, said that work will end at 12 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) on Friday to allow people to attend prayers. Friday is considered the holiest day of the week for Muslims. From January, prayers will begin at 1.15 pm local, about an hour later than at present.

Public sector employees will also be offered the chance to work flexibly on Friday, including from home. Private companies would be able to choose the weekend they feel is best for their business, provided employees are given at least one day off. Each company can decide based on the sector that they operate in, based on their clients and operations that they're managing.

Other predominantly Muslim countries including Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco and Malaysia, have adopted a Monday-Friday schedule.

While smoothing business ties around the world, the shift will mean the UAE is no longer synchronized with neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

The government of Dubai announced it would shift its week in compliance with the Emirates-wide policy.

This is not the first time the UAE has changed its work week. Between 1999 and 2006, the country had a Thursday and Friday weekend, before changing it to Friday-Saturday.

To further boost its brand as a cosmopolitan hub as it battled the economic effects of the pandemic, the UAE has made a series of changes to its penal code, based on Islamic law, or Shariah. The overhaul has loosened regulations on alcohol consumption, decriminalized cohabitation of unmarried couples, relaxed stringent punishments for drug offenses and allowed foreigners to marry, divorce and inherit wealth based on their home country's legal systems, among other things.

As the virus overwhelmed hospitals and triggered lockdowns around the world, the highly inoculated and open-for-business UAE emerged as somewhat of a haven for the world's rich who have snapped up record numbers of luxury homes in the Emirates this year.

The country, where foreign residents outnumber locals nearly nine to one, also rolled out long-term residency options to talented professionals and their families, issued special visas to freelancers and remote workers and offered wealthier expats the chance to retire in Dubai.

To find out more about long-term residency options in the UAE, you can send us an email at Adler and Partners, offers more than Citizenship and Company Formation consultancy. We provide our clients with support services through our partner alliances globally.


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