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GCC firms compete for talent as they expand workforce

People, Person, Woman, Man Creative Commons/Amtec Photos
The Hays survey showed that 67% of Gulf employers increased their workforce last year
  • Recruitment boom continues in Saudi and UAE
  • Companies expect to hire new staff mostly from the Gulf
  • Technology was leading industry in terms of hiring staff

Gulf employers, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, expect to expand their workforces further this year, boosting salaries as organisations vie to hire the region’s best talent.

Top recruitment agency Hays surveyed about 4,500 working professionals in the GCC in the final three months of 2022.

It found that last year 67 percent of employers upped their headcount, with one in three boosting their workforce by more than one tenth.

That compares with 40 percent of organisations hiring more employees in 2021 and 19 percent in 2020. 

Technology was the leading Gulf industry for hiring staff last year, and 88 percent of employers within the sector said they expect to expand their workforce in 2023. 

Sarah Dixon, managing director of Hays Middle East in Dubai said she expected a “buoyant labour market” through the year, with “new jobs being created across multiple sectors and geographies in the region”.

Some 89 percent of Saudi and 85 percent of UAE employers plan to recruit permanent employees this year, according to the survey.

They expect to hire new staff mostly from the Gulf, with just 21 percent saying they will recruit from outside the region.

“This could well lead to clashes between organisations competing for the best local talent,” said Dixon. 

Some 49 percent of Emirati employers plan to hire UAE nationals this year. Currently 42 percent said they do not have any employees who are nationals.

Katy Holmes, general manager of the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates, told AGBI last month that those in recruitment and executive search were reporting high volumes of new positions, but that she was also hearing of frustration at the candidate end.

“It suggests to me that, with more people coming to Dubai as a result of a strong global perception of ‘Brand Dubai’, the pool of talent is rich at the moment,” she said.

Pay rises

Last year 51 percent of survey respondents received a salary increase – up from 43 percent in 2021. 

Pay rises were fairly modest, with 18 percent of respondents receiving an increase of 5 percent of less, although 14 percent of respondents saw their salary jump more than 15 percent. 

The most common reason for receiving a pay rise was a person’s individual performance, followed by starting a job at a new organisation. Third was due to a standard, organisation-wide annual pay increase. 

“It’s fantastic to see that organisations in the region are focusing on growth and expansion, and that ties compensation to job performance,” said Aisha Amarsi, senior manager at Hays Middle East. 

“This in turn boosts employee motivation and commitment to company, so retention rates have increased.”

Among GCC employers 74 percent expect salaries to rise within their organisation in 2023, while 23 percent predict salaries will remain unchanged and 3 percent foresee wage cuts. 

The industrial sector distributed the biggest salary increases in 2022. Sector wage rises this year will most commonly be for a further 6-10 percent. 

people sitting on chair
Just more than half of employees in the GCC remain fully office based, according to the survey. Picture: Unsplash/Redd F

Gulf employers should brace themselves for considerable upheaval among their workforce, with 45 percent of employees saying they planned to change organisation this year, while 18 percent aim to get promoted internally and just 18 percent expect to remain in their same role. 

The sectors in which employees are most keen to change roles are banking and financial services and industry, the survey found.

A lack of career development (37 percent), salary dissatisfaction (36 percent) and insufficient career progression (34 percent) were key reasons employees cited for looking for a new job in 2023. 

“It’s now more important than ever for employers to consider career progression for their existing employees rather than seek new talent,” said Amarsi. 

In terms of benefits employees most value flexible working arrangements, followed by child education allowances, annual flights home, accommodation allowances and extra vacation days. 

The pandemic has changed the way many employees work in the GCC, although 51 percent remain fully office based. Five percent work entirely remotely, with the remainder splitting their time between office and home. 

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