Saudi Arabia's construction & real estate market is showing signs of recovery and growth

Positive signs of growth have been showing in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2021, according to Hays Recruiting experts


As with other global economies, the pandemic resulted in challenging market conditions for Saudi Arabia. With lockdown measures and travel restrictions limiting workforce capabilities and reducing global demand for oil, the government was forced to make cut backs to budgets, with many construction and real estate projects being put on hold. Eighteen months on however, the economy has bounced back. 

Positive signs of growth have been showing in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2021. Statistics from Reuters showed that the economy grew by 1.5% year-on-year as of Q3, with the non-oil revenue sector returning to pre-Covid-19 levels, growing by 10.1%. These figures, together with the high vaccine rollout and easing travel restrictions, have provoked much optimism in the kingdom.

Looking at the job market and in accordance with these statistics, we have seen business confidence grow significantly since the start of the year in Saudi Arabia, with hiring activity back to pre-pandemic levels and the next 12 months set to surge far beyond these levels. The local unemployment rate has hit a new 10-year low of 11.7% and is on track to reach the government’s target of 7% by 2030.

Specific to the Construction & Real Estate market and in line with Saudi Vision 2030, much of the demand for talent to date has come from government giga-projects, with the Red Sea Development, Amaala, NEOM, and Qiddiya creating multiple new job opportunities in region. Beyond these projects, there are a number of others that have launched this year and consequently, the job market is looking very prosperous for Construction & Real Estate professionals.

In demand

In line with the Kingdom’s vision to become a global leader within investment, tourism and trade, demand for the world’s very best talent – who have large-scale project experience - is high and we are seeing this in three main areas:

  • Design / Pre-Construction

With the launching of so many construction and real estate projects, demand for Design / Pre-Construction professionals is significant and, unfortunately for employers, there is a shortage of experienced candidates within this space. In some instances, we have seen organisations have open vacancies for up to 6 months. Roles highest in demand include Urban Designers, Master Planners, Architectural Designers and Engineering Designers with proven project experience.

In terms of seniority, demand is highest at the top-end; Director, Executive Director / C-suite level, with individuals who have years of professional experience, as well as strong commercial leadership skills to ensure that projects will be driven forward on time and to budget.

  • Project Delivery

For those projects that are beyond the Design / Pre-Construction phases - including the giga-projects mentioned above - demand for project delivery teams is high. Organisations here are eager to continue momentum of their projects and deliver the early construction phases as planned. As such, roles most in-demand include Project Directors, Project Design Directors, and Commercial Directors.

  • Digital Technology

While the Construction & Real Estate is one of the largest markets in the world, it has lacked the technological innovation of other industry sectors. However, this is rapidly changing and none more so than in Saudi Arabia, where digital technology is playing a greater and more integral part. Projects such as NEOM and The Red Sea Development are the first of such grand scale - to showcase the benefits of utilising digital technology to improve project delivery timeframes, whilst maintaining quality. As such, candidates who have experience working on digitalised projects have become a very desirable asset to employers in Saudi Arabia as they embrace more technological innovations.

Building Information Management (BIM) is the most widely used digital technology across the Middle East due to its ability to improve project visibility and help reduce the risk of project overspend. We are seeing knowledge of BIM to be an increasingly common pre-requisite for Design / Pre-Construction roles. In addition, candidates that have experience of delivering projects using innovative technology, such as Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, Blockchain, Drones and Cloud Computing, are becoming more and more in-demand.

Finally, within the Real Estate sector, we have seen an increasing demand for professionals with PropTech expertise. This includes knowledge of Apps and Web Portals that help companies to better engage with and enhance the lifestyles of their communities. While PropTech is an established phenomenon in many other developed countries, it is only in its infancy in Saudi but in a phase of rapid expansion and therefore a hot skills area for professionals working in this space.

What workers want

Demand for talent within the Construction & Real Estate market in Saudi Arabia is highly competitive due to the limited supply of professionals with extensive, large-scale project experience. 

In order to attract and retain the top talent, organisations must consider:

Salary: Pay and benefits packages remain the number one pull factor for professionals when considering a role. Offerings must be competitive – above that of other employers – plus typically inclusive of relocation support and education allowances for child dependents.

Job security: The global pandemic has only enhanced professionals need for job security, particularly for expats who will be uprooting themselves, and possibly their families, in taking on a new role in Saudi Arabia. If employers can address this at the interview stage – by visibly outlining the individuals success targets and career track within the organisation for the mid to longer-term - they will help give the candidate the confidence that this life-changing move is a risk worth taking.

Efficient onboarding processes: The more efficient and interactive the onboarding process, the more likely employers will attract the best talent. All too often, we see unnecessary delays in the recruitment process, due to changes to job descriptions or slow decision making, which results in the candidate feeling disheartened and less committed to the position. Often in these instances, candidates will then open themselves to other opportunities and seek employment elsewhere. A constant stream of feedback with the candidate from start to finish of the onboarding process is therefore essential.

What employers want

Saudi’s ambitious 2030 vision is reflected in the region’s hiring trends, with highly driven, highly skilled professionals being highest in demand.

Employers look for candidates who have worked on major, multi-billion US$ projects which are similar in nature and end-use to those they will be working on. Candidates must also have experience of working with innovative technology, a track record of delivering projects / phases from inception to completion, and a proven track record of success in senior leadership positions.

Having this desired experience and expertise is essential but being able to showcase it is incredibly important too. In many instances we speak with brilliant candidates who are qualified for roles but who fail to communicate this on their CVs. Always, we advise candidates to highlight how their skills and experiences align to the role they are applying, as well as to demonstrate the value they have brought to each role they have previously worked and therefore what they can contribute in any new role.

In summary, simply sharing a generic CV to multiple employers is not a successful means to securing a job. It is important to think smart, showcase your core skills, like-for-like project experience, and the overall value you can bring in achieving the organisations goals which align to Saudi Vision 2030.


Victoria Alderson
Senior Marketing Manager – Hays Middle East

About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe, Latin America and Asia. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2021 the Group employed c.10,800 staff operating from 256 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2021:

  • the Group reported net fees of £918.1 million and operating profit of £95.1 million;
  • the Group placed around 60,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 220,000 people into temporary roles;
  • 17% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 27% in Germany, 22% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 34% in Rest of World (RoW);
  • the temporary placement business represented 61% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 39% of net fees;
  • Technology is the Group’s largest specialism, with 26% of net fees, while Accountancy & Finance (14%) and Construction & Property (12%), are the next largest
  • Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA
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