What is the outlook for UAE salaries and jobs in 2022?

The employment market has made a strong recovery and wages will remain stable next year, Michael Page research finds

Employees work at their desks with their masks on in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Related — UAE salary guide 2021: How much should you be earning?

The jobs market in the UAE has made a strong recovery and salaries will remain stable in 2022, driven by Expo 2020 Dubai and the government’s positive handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

The most resilient sectors next year will include technology, human resources, health care and life sciences, while there will be accelerated demand for skilled workers in the areas of digital and data, and project management, recruitment specialist Michael Page said in its UAE Salary Guide & Hiring Insights 2022 report.

“With the very successful launch of the long-awaited Expo 2020, coupled with the UAE’s overall positive handling of the pandemic and other government initiatives, a significant return in market confidence has led to a strong recovery in the UAE job market,” Jon Ede, regional director for the Middle East at the PageGroup, said on Monday.

“We are certainly seeing more stability or predictability in terms of salary budgets within the UAE. We are also seeing increased flexibility by employers willing to pay more in order to secure the best talent and, in response to that, counter offers to retain key talent are on the rise.”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March last year, the UAE has spent billions of dirhams in economic stimulus measures to support businesses.

Business activity in the non-oil private sectors of the Arab world’s second-biggest economy continued to improve in October, boosted by the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, a rise in tourism and increased spending amid the economic recovery.

The UAE's headline PMI reading climbed to 55.7 in October, from 53.3 in September, underpinning a marked increase in new business during the month, driven by rising spending amid the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai. A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion while anything below points to a contraction.

Last week, a report by Mercer found that employers in the UAE will go on a hiring spree in 2022 and raise salaries by an average 3.6 per cent as demand for jobs picks up amid the UAE's post-coronavirus economic recovery.

“Signs of growth abound and are evident in the increased hiring activity that we have seen in 2021 and the positive forecast for 2022,” Andrew El Zein, a career department associate for the Mena region at Mercer, said at the time.

“Employers are prioritising hires for in-demand skill sets that will support future business growth. However, the talent pool is still developing, causing somewhat of a talent war.”

The pandemic has been a catalyst for long-term change in the workforce, with a hybrid working model becoming more common, Mr Ede said.

“Never has it been more important to understand what attracts, motivates and helps to retain talent – understanding these aspects should influence any organisation's hiring management strategy moving forward,” he said.

Project management skills are critical in today’s job market, with organisations seeking professionals to help to define strategic plans for their business recovery after Covid-19, Mr Ede said.

“They are also looking for individuals with hands-on implementation experience to help deliver the projects. Adaptable project management professionals are also needed to facilitate the ongoing digital transformation and product development happening across industries.

“Post the pandemic, healthcare companies [such as] hospitals and laboratories are also looking for talent with project management experience.”

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of respondents to the Michael Page survey believe they can fulfil their tasks or responsibilities remotely.

Employers are also becoming increasingly comfortable working with dispersed teams, with 50 per cent of respondents reporting an increase in the number of roles advertised with remote work as part of the package, the research found.

Earlier this month, a survey by professional network service LinkedIn found that remote job postings have more than doubled in the UAE as companies adapt to changing preferences in the workforce caused by the pandemic.

Asked if remote work would affect salaries and benefits, 41 per cent of respondents to the Michael Page study said they did not see a connection between benefits, salaries and remote work, while 32 per cent predicted that home workers would receive more specific benefits such as internet supplier and electricity subsidies.

However, 27 per cent “saw the glass as half empty” and highlighted the perks and benefits home workers would lose, such as lunch allowances and company cars, the report said.

Ninety-eight per cent of respondents also believe they have the skills needed for the current job market, while 52 per cent have participated in webinars, 57 per cent have taken a training course since the start of the pandemic and 84 per cent of respondents said they identified their skills gap through self-reflection.

“It shows that candidates today are capable and happy to judge themselves against the market and that they feel they have the skills they need to be successful,” the report said.

Meanwhile, 47 per cent of respondents said they are considering relocating to work and live in a more “economically dynamic area”.

About 43 per cent said they wanted to move to reduce their living costs, 37 per cent would relocate to improve their quality of life, such as improved access to health care and community spaces, while 30 per cent want to be closer to family and loved ones.

When asked how relocation would change their employment conditions, 43 per cent said they would look for a job in a different industry, 30 per cent said they would relocate and look for a job in the same industry and 29 per cent said they would only relocate for an equivalent role.

However, about 61 per cent of respondents said a relocation would boost their salaries.

“Others were not looking for a promotion or even a new job, including 20 per cent who said they would start their own company and 18 per cent who would be prepared to re-enter education or long-term training,” Michael Page said.

“In the coming years, we should have a better idea of whether relocation aspirations are a short-term reaction to the stresses of Covid or a long-term consequence of the remote-working boom.”

Updated: November 16, 2021, 5:39 AM