Saudi Arabia economy set to expand beyond forecasts for 2018

Statistics released by the IMF in January suggested growing optimism for the Saudi economy with predictions that GDP will grow 1.6% in 2018, ahead of earlier 1.1% forecasts and in stark contrast to the contraction of the economy that took place in the prior year.

From our own first-hand experiences in the Kingdom, we have certainly noticed an increase in activity within the local hiring market with added dynamism compared to previous years. Driven largely by Vision 2030 and shifts in legislative requirements, the economy is moving rapidly away from its former reliance on the Oil and Gas sector with growing opportunities across a number of other industries. Taking our own business as one example, while we have always covered region, we have now established a dedicated recruitment team focussed solely to support firms operating in KSA due to their growing business activity and consequential requirements for hiring additional headcount in the region.

View from the ground

The most noticeable area of uplift is with the hiring of Saudi nationals across all industry sectors and the added opportunities for females in the employment market. However, we have also seen these to be a challenge for employers, many of whom are struggling to find the local talent they require to fulfil roles and who have therefore approached us for support.

That being said, the market is flooded with candidates – including both Saudi nationals and expats, and the talent pool is likely to grow thanks to the strong educational provisions from the government, as well as Vision 2030 targets to increase female participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% across all sectors. The most in-demand profession that we are currently witnessing is HR, with professionals of all levels of seniority (from graduate to director level) high in demand as businesses look to establish permanent in-house resource for managing their growing workforces.

Beyond this, it has been widely recognised that KSA represents one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets worldwide and as such the IT industry is an incredibly busy area for hiring. The tech savvy youth economy (50% of the population is less than 30 years old) represents a vast and so far largely unexplored consumer market and as such, business opportunities are booming within the digital space. Predictions from Amazon-owned company, Payfort suggest that the market is to double in size from 2017 and is to be worth $22 billion by 2020.

Looking ahead

We expect e-commerce to continue as one of the busiest industries for available jobs in the coming months, particularly with regards to online retail, a main focus for all types of business operating in the region.

Mega projects Jabail II and NEOM are creating a growing number of opportunities within the Construction and Property sectors thanks to their huge infrastructure requirements. We also anticipate mounting job openings in a number of related industries, most notably the entertainment, tourism and renewable energy sectors.

The entertainments industry in itself represents significant opportunity in the Kingdom with positive implications for hiring across a number of different job categories. There exists huge appetite from the young consumer market; in the short term, the upcoming Greatest Royal Rumble wresting extravaganza marks a big turning point in this sector and it is clear that investment in the entertainments industry is on the up. The AMC has just been granted the first cinema license in Saudi Arabia and conversations are taking place with Six Flags, to name just one more major entertainment MNC potentially establishing offerings in the region, and we anticipate many more to come.

Overall, it is clear that the business landscape in Saudi Arabia is at a significant turning point with huge and unprecedented opportunities for business ahead. As investment and infrastructure continues to build, we expect more and more organisations, of all sectors, to be drawn to the Kingdom; setting up satellite offices in-region rather than servicing from neighbouring locations such as the UAE, as has been the case so far.


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