UAE Hiring activity has been highly polarised within the GCC jobs market over the past two years but confidence is growing with more consistent and prosperous conditions expected for 2018, according to Hays 2018 GCC Salary & Employment Report, now available for download.

Positively, the report, which was compiled from a survey of over 4,250 working professionals operating in the GCC, found a significant 40 per cent of employers increased headcount within their organisation in 2017 – similar to the 39 per cent who said the same in 2016. However, in contrast, over a third of organisations also reported to have reduced the size of their workforces in both 2017 and 2016.

“The findings are certainly indicative of what we have been seeing in the GCC employment market,” says Chris Greaves, Managing Director of Hays Gulf Region.

“On the one hand, the continued diversification of the local economy, away from its reliance on the Oil & Gas sector and the increasingly globalised nature of the market have brought many opportunities to businesses in the region who are actively hiring additional staff in order to capitalise on these.

“On the other hand however, the sustained low energy prices and increasing competition faced by organisations operating in all sectors, have resulted in employers taking a cautious approach to recruitment. In reference to this, we are noticing businesses being much more selective and considered when they look to add to their headcount. Application processes have, for example, become increasingly rigorous and prolonged in timescale than previous years - with companies committing to the costs of hiring only once they are confident that they have identified the most capable talent, who will add significant value to their organisation.”

2018 market outlook

Positively, the report identifies growing optimism from employers for 2018, with 71 per cent planning to recruit additional staff in the next 12 months and 66 per cent forecasting market activity to increase year-on-year for their business.

“While we do not expect the number of available jobs to reach those peaks seen in the more buoyant conditions of 2015, we do expect hiring activity to increase compared to the past year,” says Chris.

“Two of our busiest recruitment teams cover the Executive Search and Sales markets and we expect activity within these to continue with added momentum over the next 12 months. Much of this demand is borne by organisations who have previously downscaled and are now looking to hire C-level turnaround specialists who can lead their business into sustained periods of growth. Within the Sales profession, the increasing volume of new business ventures being drawn to the region in response to the tax-free environment, relatively low barriers to entry and the UAE’s location as a central hub for business, have seen an increase in demand for BD professionals who have strong industry experience and networks within the region in order to hit the ground running and secure sales revenues,” says Chris.

“Beyond these, we also believe there to be an increasing number of roles available within the IT industry, thanks to a growing focus on e-commerce and digitalisation of businesses across all sectors, and Construction and Property industries in response to the growing number of affordable housing projects set to take place within UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“Regionally of course, the upcoming introduction of VAT will also drive new opportunities for tax implementation specialists and there will be growing interest and investment in the job market in the build up to Expo 2020.”