Are employers in Saudi Arabia offering more salary hikes than their counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region?

During 2019, nearly half (45 percent) of working professionals in the kingdom received a salary increase of mostly 5 to 10 percent, while in the UAE, a lower number (40 percent) received an adjustment of mostly less than 5 percent, according to data released by recruitment firm Hays on Wednesday.

Employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia have increased since the government announced a massive investment strategy to diversify its economy away from oil revenues. With several infrastructure and other projects being rolled out in the kingdom, employers have upped their game, offering competitive compensation packages to attract new talent, Hays said in its report.

"Job numbers in Saudi Arabia are buoyant and demand for talent has increased significantly. In turn, employers are having to be competitive with the salaries they offer in order to attract the very best individuals over the competition," said Chris Greaves, managing director of Hays in the Gulf region.

Diversification strategy

The kingdom had earlier announced its Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to modernise the state, privatise state-owned assets and attract more investments from the private sector in order to raise more diverse revenues for the state.

"[The wage hikes granted last year] are not surprising, given the massive investment programme to deliver Saudi Vision 2030 and the hive of activity this is creating in the kingdom," said Greaves.

Hays report was based on the answers gathered from more than 1,000 employers and employees in Saudi Arabia.

More attractive for expat talent

Greaves said they also noticed that remuneration packages in Saudi Arabia tend to be more competitive than those in the UAE.

"For those roles that expat workers are to be considered, we have noticed packages in Saudi Arabia to be marginally higher than in the UAE. The difference, however, is due in part to deflationary pressure on salaries in the UAE," Greaves told Zawya.

He said that Saudi Arabia is now in a better position to attract more talent, considering the massive investment programme it has undertaken.

"Saudi Arabia is certainly being perceived as a more attractive place to work. We receive regular applications from jobseekers willing to relocate to the region from countries across the globe, something which was relatively uncommon before the investment programme," Greaves added.

However, higher salaries aren't the only motivating factor for expats to consider relocating to Saudi Arabia. "For construction and property professionals, for example, having the opportunity to work on such large-scale projects that are taking place in Saudi Arabia and the esteem associated with this are huge pull factors for working in the region," said Greaves.

2020 outlook

Looking ahead, Saudi Arabia's employees are more optimistic this year about compensation, with 63 percent of them saying they expect salaries to increase in 2020, compared to 57 of workers who said the same in the UAE.

"Professionals that we speak to in Saudi Arabia are certainly more bullish about their salary prospects than in the UAE. This is owing largely to the emerging activity that is happening in Saudi Arabia compared to the more established business environment of the UAE," said Greaves.

As to who will get an increase this year, Greaves said those who are highly skilled and have "proven experience and expertise to deliver business objectives within budget and time constraints" have more chances of getting pay boost.

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)

© ZAWYA 2020