The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would transition to a four and half-day working week starting next year, with the full weekend falling on Saturday and Sunday in a move aimed at better aligning its economy with global markets.
The oil producing Gulf state, the region's commercial, trade and tourism hub, currently has a Friday-Saturday weekend. As of January 1, 2022, the new weekend would start on Friday afternoon.
The UAE has in the past year taken measures to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent at a time of growing economic rivalry with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
A government statement said the move would "ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies."
Friday is a weekly holiday in many predominantly Muslim countries. The statement said that under the new work week for government entities, Friday working hours would end at 12 noon, ahead of Friday sermons and prayers.
The statement said the extended weekend comes as part of UAE efforts to boost work-life balance.
The UAE has also liberalised laws regarding cohabitation before marriage, alcohol and personal status laws in addition to introducing longer-term visas as a way to attract and retain talent and encourage more businesses to set up shop.