Hiring activity in the UAE and across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is set to pick up this year, with 64 percent of companies expecting to hire additional staff in the next 12 months amid improving business conditions, according to recruitment specialist Hays.

Most of the firms in the region (82 percent) also reported that they are either already in recovery, have recovered to normal levels or are in a growth phase following the pandemic, while nearly half (47 percent) are planning to grant salary increases in 2021.

Hays polled more than 3,500 employers and employees from across the region to produce its 2021 Salary and Employment Report, released on Wednesday. The report is the seventh and largest edition produced to date, covering major job categories like accountancy and finance, banking and financial services, construction, property and engineering, human resources, IT and digital technology, marketing, sales, office support, procurement and supply chain.

Companies across the world were forced to cut jobs last year to survive the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The expatriate population in the UAE was earlier estimated to fall by 10 percent due to the job losses.

Chris Greaves, managing director of Hays Gulf region, said conditions were already improving during the late part of 2020, months after the global lockdown was lifted and coronavirus restrictions eased. This trend further supports the view that employees can expect a bump in salaries this year and that employers are open to expand their payrolls.

“From our own experiences in the market, business activity really picked up across all sectors towards the end of 2020 and we believe this momentum will continue over the coming months, giving rise to a larger proportion of the working population receiving salary increase in 2021 compared to 2020,” Greaves said.


Hays’ survey found that, despite the “unprecedented” changes and challenges faced by companies last year, salaries for the majority of professionals in the Gulf region were unaffected over the past 12 months.

The report found that 18 percent of workers did experience some pay cuts, but there were more employees who received salary increases (34 percent) or maintained the same levels of income.

Among those who received an increase, IT and technology professionals experienced the “greatest” number of pay increases in 2020 (38 percent), while the lowest number of salary increases were paid to those in office support and administration roles (26 percent).

The coronavirus pandemic has altered consumption habits and lifestyles globally and given rise to e-commerce. Firms in the tech industry who were quick to jump on the digital bandwagon were able to reap considerable rewards. Consequently, requirements for more qualified tech professionals also increased.

“Demand and salaries for tech professionals have been relatively high as, despite the challenges COVID-19 has brought to businesses this year, the need for automation is more crucial than ever in enabling organisations to remain competitive in their respective markets,” said Greaves.

“Employers are willing to pay high salaries for the top tech talent to ensure they are set up as efficiently as possible for business going forward,” he added.

In contrast, demand and salaries for office support and administrative roles fell as the pandemic resulted in the closure of many offices during the lockdown and the shift to remote working made some roles redundant.

Pay cuts

Overall, telecoms, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, banking and financial services were found to be the “most robust” industries last year, with only six percent of workers within these reporting pay cuts.

Professionals who received the biggest salary cuts are working in aviation, hospitality, tourism, engineering and property, with 34 percent of employees in these industries confirming income drops.

The UAE Central Bank projected that the UAE’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will recover to 2.5 percent this year, after a 6 percent contraction for the year 2020.

Economic activity in the country already “recovered partially” during the third quarter of 2020, thanks mainly to the lifting of lockdowns and resumption of international travel, the central bank said.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)


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