IT Contracting in the UAE - a view from the ground

Author: Jamie Pennie, Head of IT Contracting, Hays Middle East

I am three months into launching IT Contracting in the Middle East and I wanted to share some initial observations about the IT contracting sector here.

To give you some background, I have worked in IT recruitment for the last six years’, based largely in the UK. Now living in Dubai, I moved here to explore new opportunities and to extend my knowledge of global IT Contracting. Below are some insights I have so far picked up and which give a good idea of the differences, as well as the opportunities and challenges existing in the Middle East compared to other geographical regions.

Key insights to date

The UAE is a country flooded with candidates – there is an incredibly strong and ever increasing supply of available candidates in the market and as a result, job vacancies attract hundreds (if not thousands!) of applications. Managing these volumes is understandably challenging however, unlike the UK and Europe, I am surprised to see how underutilised advanced technology such as Google Enhanced searching and a smart database for storing this type of candidate data is within the region. If embraced correctly, the pay-offs would undoubtedly assist organisations in establishing a competitive edge by finding the right contractor with relevant availability and specialist skills.

Contracting is in its infancy in the UAE – IT contracting is considered a relatively new concept here compared to areas such as the UK and Europe, where there is almost a complete dependency on IT Contractors to deliver major change and transformation programmes. Instead, permanent recruitment is still frequently favoured over contracting and I suspect this is down to a number of factors, including; labour laws and the ease of attaining visas, a lack of knowledge/experience of flexible workforces, and a shortfall or underrepresentation of agencies dedicated to contracting.

Realisation of the benefits is however growing from job seekers and employers alike. For the latter, they get the skills they need, when they need them, which reduces the financial burden that hiring on permanent contracts can bring. There is also the added advantage that contractors are not categorised within the employer’s direct headcount, therefore organisations can complete critical projects without the full employment responsibility. For contractors themselves, they have the opportunity to share their expertise with multiple organisations and be remunerated accordingly. Ultimately then, all parties involved in contracting can achieve their objectives and prosper.

Digital Transformation has long been established in the UAE, it just hasn’t been branded“Digital” - the region has some of the most talented and inspiring CIO’s in the world who have very clear visions and strategies, as well as strong backing from local governments. In many respects, it is a leading player in digitalisation; the Dubai Smart Government Programme and EXPO 2020 mark significant innovations within the tech industry and are certainly putting the UAE on the map as place of opportunity for those who reach out and grab it.


For organisations in the region, contracting is an incredibly exciting prospect. It is a practice that is here to stay and if incorporated correctly, will only bring success.

For employers looking to secure the top contracting talent, having slick and professional processes for managing your contractors is essential and will position you as an employer of choice. From on boarding to invoicing, payroll to contract termination, taking care of the contractor is critical in order to maximise the delivery of current and future projects. All too often, I have heard of contractors not being paid or facing issues with local labour laws. For that reason, it is essential that employers work with a trusted recruiter/party who has the expertise to guide you through or manage the process for you.

In summary

A colleague of mine recently described contracting to be the spine of the economy. Just as the spine allows the body to bend and move to navigate its surroundings, contracting gives the economy the flexibility it needs to adapt to the changing environment.

If you are considering hiring an IT Contractor or if you are an IT Contractor looking to work in the UAE, our door is always open for you to meet with me and discuss your needs. With offices based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we are your local expert for roles in the UAE.

To view our current contractor openings follow the link that can be found here.



Disclaimer: The postings on this blog represent my own views and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Hays.