New Law in the UAE Mandates Employee Reading Time

A remarkable government effort to make reading a fundamental part of the country’s culture

Forget the towering skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and beaches — the United Arab Emirates has a new reason to be the object of global envy. According to the Guardian, Vice President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has implemented a groundbreaking initiative which requires government employers to give workers an allotment of free time for reading. The books must have some value related to the workplace or personal growth, but the mandate reflects a national effort to make literature and reading a mainstay of their culture.

The law also has implications for the UAE educational system. When their youngest citizens are still in diapers, a “knowledgeable briefcase” will be bestowed upon them. It will act as a sort of reading bag, where children can collect books, and the system will ensure that all reading materials are recycled or donated so that no books ever go to waste.

Sheikh Mohammed told the National, a UAE government owned publication, that, “The law will encourage the private sector to invest in the establishment of libraries and cultural centers. This will be done by providing the private sector with facilities, incentives and discounts.” The ultimate goal is for reading to infiltrate all aspects of society. There are even plans for library branches to be put in shopping centers.

The vice president has been applauded by many, but perhaps most notable was his pat on the back from novelist, Paulo Coelho. He responded to the author by saying:

“Did you know, Paulo, that in the 9th century, our region had over 100 publishing houses on the outskirts of Baghdad alone? … When its life was centered on books, Baghdad was, my friend, a beacon in the worlds of astronomy, medicine, mathematics and philosophy. Where is Baghdad today?”

Sheikh Mohammed makes a very serious point. What country wouldn’t benefit from a reading law?

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