Many businesses in the UAE are back on a hiring spree to replace talent lost during the pandemic, but they need to step up their compensation offering to attract the best candidates, according to recruitment expert Robert Half. 

In its 2022 Salary Guide, the specialist recruiter highlighted that salaries and benefits packages of professionals working in the UAE have lost their competitive edge, citing that monthly incomes are no longer keeping pace with inflation.

Some employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are also “resisting” the idea of remote working, thus putting off many potential applicants. 

Analysis of salaries for more than 150 positions in the UAE show that workers have seen their incomes rise by an average of four percent, way below the global average. In job markets like Europe and Australia, also considered popular destinations for expatriates, the average pay increase is 11 percent. 

This, Robert Half said, indicates that the UAE is “still lagging in the global war for talent”. 

“The cost of living is increasing across the UAE, but salaries and benefits aren’t rising to meet them,” the report said. 

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director for the Middle East at Robert Half, noted that many companies are finding it difficult to compete in the war for talent.  

“Businesses in the UAE are in a hiring frenzy as they try to make up for lost time, but unfortunately, many are finding it difficult to find the talent they need,” he said. 

“Loosening travel restrictions is improving the flow of expat talent into the region, [but] the UAE is not as competitive as it once was.” 

The UAE has rolled out a series of legal reforms and initiatives to encourage expatriates and foreign investors to move to the country. Long-term visas have been handed out to accomplished and highly skilled individuals, including doctors and entrepreneurs.

Who got the biggest pay hike? 

In Robert Half’s study, it was found that professionals working in the legal sector recorded the biggest salary increase of 6 percent.  

Finance accounting and technology professionals saw their salaries rise by 5 percent, while those working in financial services and human resources reported pay hikes of 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively. 

To attract the best talent, Robert Half said, companies should go the extra mile by offering competitive benefits, particularly hybrid working. 

“In other countries, remote working is now the most common benefit offered by employers. For example, it is now available to employees at more than three-quarters (78 percent) of companies in the UK,” Robert Half said. 

Multinational companies in the UAE, however, are more open to offer remote working to their staff, the recruitment specialist said. This is particularly true in the finance and accounting sectors. 

“[But] some smaller, local SMEs have been more resistant. Remote flexible working remains the most commonly requested benefits among candidates in all sectors.” 

More than seven out of 10 employers in the UAE had said they are planning to hire new employees within a year, according to a separate survey by that was released last September.  

Customer service workers are said to be the most in demand. Companies are also most likely to recruit for positions in healthcare and medical services, as well as human resources and consumer goods fields.

Population in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region fell by around 4 percent in 2020, as many expatriates who lost their jobs during the pandemic returned to their home countries, S&P Global Ratings said in February. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Daniel Luiz) 

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