Middle East energy salaries fall as companies shift hiring priorities

Salaries fell for 9 per cent of oil and gas employees for most experienced professionals, according to a new report from Rigzone, an energy industry news service.

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Salaries for the best paid oil workers in the Middle East dropped last year by 12 per cent to an average of £75,920 (Dh464,865).

Salaries fell for 9 per cent of oil and gas employees for most experienced professionals, according to a new report from Rigzone, an energy industry news service.

But it’s good news for the sector’s lower wage workers, 66 per cent of whom saw their remuneration packages increase. Salaries were flat for a further 25 per cent.

Another key trend is that companies are increasingly seeking to place nationals into top jobs.

“Companies … in the Middle East [are building] strong, local oil and gas expertise,” said Dominic Simpson, an executive at Rigzone. “[They are becoming] less dependent on expats, and will create more career opportunities for nationals,” he said.

David Spencer Percival, the chief executive of the energy recruitment firm Spencer Ogden, said: “There’s pressure all across the organisation [to include more nationals]. Some companies will only look at nationals for certain jobs. Local employees are heavily pushed at top of pyramid. It’s constant. These companies are not just paying lip service – expats are becoming the last choice.

He added that a “huge” shortage of nationals was pushing wages for Middle Eastern executives higher.

“Energy companies are taking top nationals, but there’s just not enough of them. And some of these nationals are now expats elsewhere,” he said.

A recent poll from YouGov found that 29 per cent of Emiratis wanted to pursue careers in the oil and gas sector. A majority of respondents thought the energy sector offered the most lucrative salaries, and 44 per cent thought it offered the best career prospects.

Mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, safety officers, operations managers and civil engineers were the roles in most demand, according to the Rigzone survey.

“You always need good drilling people. And commercial staff – project managers, and senior staff [are in high demand]. Sales are picking up, so you need new sales staff. And geologists and petrophysicists have always been in demand,” said Mr Percival.

But the discovery of shale gas in America and Asia is affecting the migratory habits of oil sector expats. “There’s not as many flowing in,” Mr Percival said.

The shortage of nationals is making life difficult for energy companies in the Middle East, as world energy demand increases.

“As the global economy picks up … and as India and China become more technologically advanced and westernised, the consumption of energy will increase,” said Mr Percival. “I can only see the skill shortage increasing.”

abouyamourn@thenational.ae

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