Hiring activity in 2017 has continued at a similar rate to 2016; the number of available jobs across the GCC has remained the same yet quite significantly reduced from the more buoyant conditions of 2015. This is largely down to sustained low energy prices resulting in reductions in revenues and company spend on hiring across all industry sectors.
That being said, there has remained much hiring activity taking place in the market and we noticed the busiest areas to be within Executive Search and sales job categories. Following many company restructures that had previously taken place in response to the low energy prices, our Executive Search division saw an uplift in demand for Turnaround Specialists at FD / COO level who are hired based on their ability to lead businesses into sustained periods of growth.
Within the sales profession, the increasing volume of new business ventures being drawn to the region in response to the tax-free environment, relatively low barriers to entry and the UAE’s location as a central hub for business, have seen an increase in demand for BD professionals who have strong industry experience and networks within the region in order to hit the ground running and secure sales revenues.
Predictions for 2018
For 2018, we expect hiring activity to increase compared to 2017 thanks to the continued diversification of the local economy, away from the oil and gas sector and the increasingly globalised nature of the market. This optimism is supported by recent findings from our Hays annual GCC Salary and Employment survey (full findings from which will be available in January 2018), with 71 percent of employers planning to hire additional headcount in the next 12 months and 66 percent expecting market activity to increase year-on-year.
We anticipate some of this uplift for 2018 to come from Sales and Executive Search job categories in relation to the trends mentioned above but we also believe there to be an increasing number of roles available within IT and construction and property industries.
Thanks to a growing focus on e-commerce and digitalisation of businesses across all sectors, we expect there to be an increase in demand for IT professionals, as organisations become more intent on building their digital in-house IT capabilities in relation to these. Within the construction and property sector, we anticipate there to be added opportunities in the coming year in response to the growing number of affordable housing projects set to take place within the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Regionally of course, the upcoming introduction of VAT will also drive new opportunities for tax implementation specialists and there will be growing interest and investment in the job market in the build up to Expo 2020.
Where challenges remain are in relation to stringent budgets and companies spending on hiring. While activity is set to pick up, we do not expect the number of available jobs to be as high as in 2015 as employers do remain cautious and are likely to invest in hiring only when there is an absolute necessity to do so. Chris Greaves is regional managing director at recruitment firm Hays.
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