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|08 August, 2018

Jobs & salaries: VAT, disputes and oil prices among the big factors in Q2 - report

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Image used for illustrative purpose. UAE VAT return system relies on an advanced integrated digital system to set up a direct connection with points of sale

Image used for illustrative purpose. UAE VAT return system relies on an advanced integrated digital system to set up a direct connection with points of sale

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While the number of job vacancies advertised for professionals in the Middle East during the second quarter of this year increased by 27 percent quarter-on-quarter, a new industry report released this week found that the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) has not resulted in the huge job creation many predicted before the new tax’s introduction at the start of the year.

The latest Middle East Jobs Index, compiled by recruitment firm Robert Walters, also found that, despite the introduction of VAT, salary levels had generally remained static. However, there has been a rise in demand for treasury experts, sales and marketing candidates in Saudi Arabia, dispute lawyers, energy experts, candidates with experience in treasury, and Gulf nationals in general, mainly as a result of increased demand for companies to improve their Emiratisation and Saudization levels. (Read the full report here).

UAE focus:
• The number of advertised job vacancies for professionals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), across accountancy and finance, banking and financial services, legal and sales and marketing, increased by 13 percent quarter-on-quarter in Q2.
• The quarter saw the highest growth in demand in the legal sector (72 percent), followed by banking and financial services (46 percent), while the accounting and finance saw a modest 5 percent growth.
• Overall, year-on-year growth in the UAE was up 38 percent across all sectors.

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Saudi Arabia focus:
• The number of advertised job vacancies for professionals in the kingdom, across accountancy and finance, banking and financial services, legal, sales and marketing, increased by 41 percent quarter-on-quarter in Q2.
• Sales and marketing saw the biggest demand, increasing by 143 percent, while accounting and finance registered a more modest 38 percent.
• Annual growth across all sectors rose 111 percent compared to 2017.

Below is a breakdown of the report's main points by sector:

Accounting and finance:
• Saudi Arabia and the UAE introduced a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on January 1 this year and while there were reports last year that this would lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs for tax professionals, Robert Walters says this has not materialised.
• “This did not pan out as we expected with a relatively small number of requests from the private sector (especially retail and food),” the report said. While the general private sector has been quiet, the report said there has been “insatiable appetite for junior and mid-level tax advisory candidates” as consultancy firms look to bulk up their headcounts.
• Another key VAT-related impact has been the fact that employers have not taken the new taxation into account in salary packages and “overall average monthly salaries remain the same as last year”.
• The sector has seen a growing demand for UAE nationals, especially in the audit area, and the report forecasts that this will continue into the second half of 2018.

Banking and financial services:
• The report has seen growing demand for risk, compliance, treasury and private banking candidates, especially in Kuwait City, Riyadh and Dubai.
• Last year, this sector was describes as “slow and at times stalled”, while the report says the first few months of 2018 has seen more approvals for additional headcount, especially in the treasury section and in Saudi Arabia in general.
• On a salary front, levels have been flat, expect for those who moved from international banks to more local organisations.

Legal:
• The first few months of 2018 has seen an increase in demand for dispute lawyers, across international and local law firms and across all levels of seniority. “Particularly in Dubai and Saudi where construction dispute lawyers were heavily in demand,” the report said.
• On the downside, the report said many law firms were cutting costs and closing smaller regional offices and focusing on their core offices in locations such as Dubai and Riyadh.
• Streamlining costs has also seen an increase in firms hiring in-house legal professionals instead of relying on outside law firms.
• The healthier oil price has also meant there is increased demand for energy lawyers. “Demand for experienced overseas energy lawyers is high, particularly from the likes of Houston, Aberdeen and Perth,” the report said.

Jason Grundy, country head at Robert Walters in the Middle East, gave a balanced outlook on the second quarter results: “The summer so far in 2018 has been the busiest I have ever experienced, with job numbers increasing after the Eid break and client forecasted needs suggest this will continue right the way through to September.

“Unfortunately, I can’t simply announce a sustained period of continuous growth for the region, but things are certainly more positive in a world of contradictions. Sailors call it confused seas - on the one hand Robert Walters has enjoyed a record half year in 2018 with areas of legal, finance and banking posting record numbers. Equally, I’m aware there is a significant exodus of expats from all areas of the GCC and the Qatar situation does not seem to be getting any closer to a resolution,” he added.

(Salaries: Click here for a sample of the average monthly wages earned by a variety of roles across the different sectors in the UAE).

Further reading:
Gulf jobs on the rise, driven by higher oil prices - GulfTalent
VAT implementation will generate thousands of finance jobs in KSA
KPMG plans to create more than 700 jobs in Saudi Arabia over the next five years
Bayt.com reveals massive success by announcing 37,000 jobs in Q2 2018
Renewable energy jobs reach 103 million worldwide in 2017
The share of jobs requiring artificial intelligence skills has grown 45X in the last 5 years

(Writing by Shane McGinley; Editing by Imogen Lillywhite)
(shane.mcginley@thomsonreuters.com)

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