UAE economy growth drives 'war on talent' for tech professionals

Demand for employees with digital skills on the rise due to digital adoption and government reforms

HAMBURG, GERMANY - DECEMBER 28:  Participant hold their laptops in front of an illuminated wall at the annual Chaos Computer Club (CCC) computer hackers' congress, called 29C3, on December 28, 2012 in Hamburg, Germany. The 29th Chaos Communication Congress (29C3) attracts hundreds of participants worldwide annually to engage in workshops and lectures discussing the role of technology in society and its future. (Photo by Patrick Lux/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

UAE business leaders are confident about their companies' prospects for next year, as growth in the economy - boosted by government reforms and digital technology adoption - drives demand for high-skilled professionals, a new study found.

According to the Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide, 89 per cent of chief financial officers are optimistic about their company's outlook, although the fresh momentum in the economy is now leading to a "war" for digitally savvy talent.

“Numerous economic indicators show that business confidence and growth are on the rise in the UAE region, which is creating more opportunities for talented professionals to develop their careers,” said Gareth El Mettouri, associate director of the global recruitment consultancy Robert Half UAE.

“The pervasiveness of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning in every business sector, means that people with digital skills and know-how are particularly in demand.”

The UAE jobs market has received a boost in recent months thanks to a raft of reforms rolled out by the Government, designed to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and diversify the economy. Measures include more relaxed visa options for professionals, retirees and residents between jobs and a new low-cost private sector insurance policy that protects workers' benefits and reduces costs for employers.

According to the latest World Economic Outlook, 3 per cent growth is expected in the UAE in 2019.

The Robert Half study found that 51 per cent of Dubai leaders and 45 per cent of Abu Dhabi leaders are concerned about the effort needed to attract, secure and retain specialist professionals in the future. With many UAE organisations now in the midst of digital and AI transformation programmes, the demand for technology professionals is particularly potent.


Read more:

A fifth of UAE expatriates doubled their salary when they relocated

New to the UAE guide: set-up costs, visas, rent, school fees and more

New to the UAE guide part 2: banking, saving, investing and sound financial advice

Is the UAE's new five-year visa a game changer for expat retirement?


David Mackenzie, the managing director of the GCC recruitment consultancy Mackenzie Jones, said the Emirates has positioned itself as a start-up hub, with many of the new companies very tech focused.

"As a result, we need digital professionals to navigate these start-ups as well as how to market and sell them," he said. "Big corporations are also going through tech transformation programmes, so there is rising demand for data-driven technologists. Every company wants information about its customers and the only way to do that is via technology."

Some 50 per cent of the UAE organisations polled by Robert Half said it was “significantly challenging” to find qualified professionals to meet their digital needs. The struggle to secure the right personnel leads to reduced productivity for 31 per cent of those polled and limited business growth for 23 per cent, the study found.

Mr El Mettouri said hiring managers must have effective recruitment strategies in place to secure their preferred candidates, as well as offer the optimum combination of salaries and benefits.

When it comes to remuneration, 90 per cent of employers said such candidates are more demanding over pay, expecting a higher base wage, higher bonus and flexible working hours.

Almost six in 10 (58 per cent) of business leaders said they were happy to raise the base salary for applicants with technical skills.

The technology roles most in-demand are mid-level to managerial. Predicted starting salaries for the top three most in-demand roles include $55,600 (Dh204,200) to $114,400 for an IT security analyst, $52,300 to $125,100 for an applications developer, and $46,600 to $78,500 for a systems administrator.

While hiring for tech roles is a focus for UAE businesses, Robert Half said many companies are offering salaries that are too low to attract the technically skilled workers they need.

Other sectors experiencing a rise in vacancies include financial services, due to the implementation of new standards such as IFRS 9 and Basel III, the introduction of VAT and the rise of FinTech businesses in the region., the region’s largest jobs website, said on Sunday that close to 50,000 new jobs were available on its platform between July and September - a spike of 35 per cent on the second quarter of the year.

Last month, the Middle East Job Index Survey reported that nine in 10 employers are planning to hire staff across the board. The region’s hiring index has increased by 12 points pointing to a significant growth in hiring activity when compared to 2017.

“So far this year, around 140,000 jobs were announced on, which is about how many jobs were announced during 2017 in total,” said Omar Tahboub, general manager of the website.