LinkedIn data shows ‘optimism’ for UAE labour market recovery with IT most in demand

Exclusive: Jobs growth on the professional networking platform fell steeply in March but remote work is on the rise and certain sectors are still hiring

A quiet City Walk on a Ramadan evening.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Hiring in the UAE fell by 60 per cent at the end of April compared to the previous year, with jobseekers in travel, retail and media among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, LinkedIn said.

Ali Matar, head of the Europe, Middle East and Africa emerging markets, told The National that the company had observed "an upward trend and a pattern of slow recovery in line with global trends" last month.

“We are continuing to share hesitant optimism that globally we are through the worst of hiring slumps and are starting to see hints of recovery, while cautioning that we have got a long road ahead.”

The Covid-19 pandemic, declared by the World Health Organisation on March 12, devastated the global jobs market as lockdowns and travel bans adopted to contain the public health crisis disrupted livelihoods and supply chains.

More than four fifths of workers globally live in countries affected by full or partial lockdown measures, according to a May report from the International Labour Organisation.

The labour body of the United Nations estimates that 6.7 per cent of working hours were lost globally in the second quarter of this year – the equivalent of 195 million jobs worldwide.

In the UAE, the composition of job postings underwent massive shifts during the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Some of those trends are a consequence of Covid-19, while others began before that but registered an acceleration in recent weeks, LinkedIn said.

About half of the UAE’s adult population, four million people, are members of the platform.

We were rethinking business models, which are focused on digital transformation, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Software and IT services proved the most resilient sector, with job postings, particularly in cyber security, increasing by 66 per cent year on year.

Demand for positions in health care, especially roles such as registered nurses, general practitioners and sales representatives, grew 28 per cent, according to LinkedIn.

Corporate services roles such as business development jobs, which were on the rise before the pandemic and remained flat through the worst of the Covid-19 employment dip, were up 14 per cent year on year.

Another trend emerging in the UAE is growing demand for remote work. Before Covid-19, the country had one of the lowest remote work participation rates in the world. Ten per cent of workers in the country reported that they worked from home for one to two days per week, compared to a global average of 62 per cent, according to a 2019 survey by the International Workplace Group.

However, the share of job postings for remote work, compared to all job postings on LinkedIn, grew nearly threefold from the first week of March to the last week of May.

Sectors that remained relatively flat through the second quarter were energy and mining, consumer goods and manufacturing, which took a slight dip of 5 per cent year on year.

Finance jobs, buoyed by an increase in postings for financial services roles that offset losses in banking and insurance, were also up 1 per cent.

Some of this durability can be attributed to increased efforts to drive digital transformation at UAE employers.

The chief executive of P&O Maritime Logistics, which was re-acquired by DP World last year, said stepped-up efforts to build digital and tech-based tools to improve efficiency before the pandemic were “providing a light at the end of the tunnel”.

“We were rethinking business models, which are focused on digital transformation, even before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, and more than ever, it is even more essential to use technology to operate effectively,” Martin Helweg said.

“What we are seeing now is a continuation of industry transformation, albeit [with] the new set of global challenges we are facing.”

The hardest hit sectors have yet to witness any signs of recovery. The media and travel industries were both fast-growing sectors in the UAE before the pandemic but their upward trajectory was completely inverted in the second quarter.

Retail suffered the biggest downturn, dropping 63 per cent, with the decline most acute during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis in the UAE. Travel, mainly driven by aviation, hospitality and tourism, was down 50 per cent in the same period.

Media and communications jobs, particularly in marketing and advertising, fell by 30 per cent year on year at the end of the second quarter.

Hiring for construction, which was on the decline well before Covid-19, decline 15 per cent year on year but a pattern of recovery is beginning to emerge, according to LinkedIn.