About six in 10 employers in the Gulf said their current headcount is either the same or greater than their pre-pandemic numbers and 74 per cent expect to hire more staff this year, according to a survey by recruiter Hays.
Sales and operations skillsets are most in demand among employers today, the survey found.
More than half of employers in the Gulf say they have now recovered from the negative effects of Covid-19 and were operating in "business as usual" or "growth mode", according to Hays’ Covid-19 business impacts one year on report.
It polled more than 1,000 professionals working in the Gulf, a quarter of whom reported having been made redundant since the start of the pandemic.
“Our experience of working with employers and job seekers confirm that business activity is on an upward trajectory,” said Kieran Fitzgerald, senior operations director of Hays Middle East.
“We saw job numbers decline across all sectors in the region from April through to late summer of 2020. However, opportunities have been increasing significantly since the end of last year and sentiment is generally positive.”
Among the companies that are still recovering, 28 per cent said they expect operations to be back to pre-pandemic levels or beyond in the next 12 months, while the remaining 20 per cent expect recovery to take longer than one year, the survey found.
These are companies operating in hard-hit industries such as travel and tourism, energy and construction, according to Hays.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the jobs market globally in 2020, with many companies laying off or furloughing employees to reduce operating costs. However, with economies gradually opening up around the world, job prospects are brighter in 2021.
This is also being reflected in pay, with 71 per cent of working professionals in the Gulf saying they are earning the same or more than before the pandemic, and only 29 per cent of professionals reporting lower salaries than 12 to 18 months ago.
However, 39 per cent of employers expect remuneration within their organisation to increase before the end of the year, the survey found.
“While there remains a proportion of the population who are battling the negative repercussions of the pandemic, the outlook is largely optimistic … we expect salary trends to be much the same as they have been regionally for a number of years, whereby more than half of all professionals' salaries will remain the same year-on-year and up to 40 per cent will increase on [the] prior year,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
The survey also found that 69 per cent of organisations now offer remote working, compared to 43 per cent at the start of 2020. The most common option is complete flexibility to work from home, offered by 38 per cent of employers.
This is followed by hybrid options, where people work remotely for two or three days a week, which is offered by 18 per cent of employers.
Remote working is now key to attracting and retaining talent, with 42 per cent of working professionals citing this as an important factor when considering an employer, the survey found.
Employers are also hiring and onboarding talent remotely, thanks to the use of technology. More than half of all employers said they had brought in new employees remotely from other geographic regions and 41 per cent said they would do so in future, regardless of Covid-19.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, employers typically sought to relocate all employees to the region, the report said.
However, the popularity of remote work has had an effect on office space in the region. Of those employers polled, 2 per cent said they closed their offices altogether in the past year, 11 per cent downsized and a further 13 per cent intend to do so by the end of the year, the survey said.
Meanwhile, six in 10 employers said they had no preference on vaccine status when hiring new staff while 48 per cent said that being vaccinated would be a requirement going forward.
Also, 69 per cent of working professionals said it is reasonable for companies to request they are vaccinated, according to the Hays survey.